The Texas A&M Foundation Board of Trustees has chosen Jabreon Jackson ’21, Nathaniel Lies ’21 and Marco Solarte ’21 as the three recipients of its Trustees’ Outstanding Student Award (TOSA) for 2021. In recognition of their achievements despite personal hardship, these seniors will receive $2,500 each to give them a head start after graduation.
“It is an honor and a privilege for the Board of Trustees to have the opportunity to select students of Texas A&M to receive the Outstanding Student Awards,” said Kathleen M. Gibson ’81, chair of the Foundation’s Board of Trustees. “These students live our core values and demonstrate extraordinary leadership in action. I hope this will serve as inspiration for each of them to remember what Texas A&M represents and what leadership and courageous conviction can accomplish.”
Since its establishment in 2012 by former trustee Melbern Glasscock ’59 and his wife, Susanne, the Trustees’ Outstanding Student Award has rewarded Aggie seniors who hold campus leadership positions and continue to succeed academically while facing financial, familial or personal challenges.
“Texas A&M thrives because of students like Jabreon, Nathaniel and Marco,” said Tyson Voelkel ’96, Texas A&M Foundation president. “It takes more than good grades to earn this award. These students set themselves apart in and out of the classroom and unapologetically embody Aggieland’s core values. Their enthusiasm is something to behold.”
Texas A&M Foundation
Growing up in Caldwell, Jabreon Jackson had a push-and-pull relationship with Texas A&M. She worried that with the university so close to home, she wouldn’t grow to her fullest extent. After seeing her older sister return from Fish Camp, however, she was hooked.
“My favorite part of Fish Camp is how people come from all different backgrounds,” Jackson said. “To get the chance to open my own worldview and interact with people who are very different from myself in mindset, culture and life has really impacted my Aggie experience.”
By participating in numerous organizations, such as EXCEL, A&M Photography Club, Lacrosse Club and Fish Camp, Jackson learned to spread her wings.
“Throughout my childhood, I struggled with peers who attempted to define my limitations and stifle my creativity and skills,” Jackson said. “Coming into college, I had to reset my mindset. At some point, I began chasing big opportunities and trying to prove myself, both to other people and myself.”
Jackson currently runs her own photography business and student teaches at Riverbend Elementary School. She longs to make a difference through art and education and will put her award money toward a master’s degree in higher education-student affairs at Florida State University.
“I’m extremely grateful to be honored with this award and associated with all of the prior recipients. I hope to live up to their names and expectations,” Jackson said. “Hopefully, one day I can come back to Aggieland and give back to other people. I’m excited to see what’s next for me.”
Texas A&M Foundation
Eagle Scout and National Merit Finalist Nathaniel Lies visited colleges across the Midwest until he found a place where he could develop himself and pursue his curiosity and love of science. Stepping foot on Texas A&M’s campus for the first time, Lies said something in the atmosphere and culture just clicked.
“My dad passed away when I was in high school, leaving my mother financially responsible for me and my siblings. She has always been there to support and encourage me, so now that I’m able to give back, I do anything and everything to lessen the financial burden on her,” Lies said. “Trying to strike a balance between cost and quality of education was difficult, but if I had known the kind of support I would receive at Texas A&M, I wouldn’t have visited other schools. That ‘we’re all in it together’ Aggie Spirit has been so transformative to helping me learn and make connections.”
In the College of Engineering, Lies led the first cohort of undergraduates in a brand-new major: Materials Science and Engineering (MSEN). Blazing the trail for the program, Lies took on leadership roles in MSEN Ambassadors and Materials Advantage while working as a research assistant, presenting at conferences and competing in national materials competitions.
“It’s been such an honor to help create the first impression of Texas A&M’s MSEN undergraduates,” Lies explained. “It’s also been a rewarding experience to work with faculty on strengthening a curriculum that will continue for decades.”
Lies’ research directed his dreams toward academia. Moving to Atlanta this summer, Lies will use his award money to pursue his Ph.D. in materials science and engineering at Georgia Tech.
“It’s nice to be recognized for the work that I’ve put in, and I feel such gratitude for the Foundation helping make my career and dreams possible,” Lies said. “Texas A&M really excels at helping other Aggies, and I look forward to the day I can turn around and help other people as I’ve been helped.”
Texas A&M Foundation
Born in Ecuador, Marco Solarte always dreamed of studying engineering at Texas A&M. Unfortunately, his family moved to America during an economic recession, pushing his dream temporarily out of reach. To afford a degree, Solarte joined the U.S. Navy, serving for seven years before applying to Texas A&M.
“If you want to become an outstanding engineer, you come to Texas A&M,” Solarte said. “While I was accepted to several schools, I was impressed by the resources Texas A&M offers veterans. The people here take care of veterans because they really understand the challenges we face.”
Arriving on campus in 2017, Solarte feared he would feel distanced from traditional students. But while working for the Veterans Services Office, he found that his story could help other veterans transition to civilian life.
“As soon as I came to Texas A&M, so many people helped me understand that not everything in life is about perfect timing, but how actively you pursue your dreams and aspirations in life,” Solarte added. “This university gave me more than education and opportunities; it also gave me unforgettable friendships and a new family.”
Solarte will begin work at ConocoPhillips in July and use his award money to pursue his MBA at Rice University. No matter where he goes, he said plans to keep mentoring other veterans and help them realize their dreams of higher education.
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