Flint Student wins American GI Forum State Competition
Yaquelin Vargas, an 18 year old student at Genesee Early College and a Flint resident, recently won local and state competitions to represent the American GI Forum of Michigan in the National GI Forum Queen competition that was held in late July in Omaha, Nebraska at the American GI Forum’s 63rd Annual National Convention.
Vargas transferred from a San Antonio school to Flint in 2010 to enter two-pronged educational program- earning credits at UM-Flint while completing her high school education.
Ms. Vargas’ goal is to become an Air Force Pediatric Nurse because she wants to serve her adopted country and children. She is currently serving in an intern program at Hurley Hospital.
She credits Mr. Domingo Berlanga, longtime Flint resident and Commander of the Flint Chapter for getting her interested in the forum’s ongoing educational outreach to the city. She has taught Spanish as a second language to children and senior citizens at the Hispanic Center.
Carlos Cisneros, a member of the American GI Forum Executive Board, said that Vargas is a model for young Latinos in the area because she is a hard worker. “She exemplifies what the GI Forum is promoting – Education and hard work. She’s walking the walk,” Cisneros said.
The AGIF motto is “Education is our freedom and freedom should be everybody’s business.”
The Flint Group awarded Vargas a $500 scholarship for winning the local competition and provided for her expenses and transportation to attend the National competition. Vargas said the national competition experience in Omaha was unforgettable. “It’s not how you look that creates who you are – it’s who you are inside,” Vargas said.
She met J.R. Martinez, an American actor and motivational speaker for the event. He was a former U.S. Army wounded soldier who sustained severe burns to over 40 percent of his body while serving as an infantryman in Iraq. Following his recovery, he traveled around the country speaking about his experiences to veterans groups. She said his speech helped to motivate her to continue toward her goals.
Vargas was born in Nueva Rosita, Mexico. Her father is Sergio Vargas of Flint and her mother, the late Paulita Oralia Olivares.
The American GI Forum began in 1948 by Dr. Hector P. Garcia. At that time there were other veteran advocacy groups, but few allowed Latino membership, and none of them fought to protect the rights of Latino veterans who needed medical treatment.
Garcia became an ambassador to the United Nations under President Lyndon Johnson and in 1984 President Ronald Reagan presented Dr. Garcia with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.