The Texas A&M Foundation Board of Trustees named Brenda Castillo '17 and Joshua Sutton '17 as recipients of its fifth Outstanding Student Award during a dinner on May 3 at the Sanders Corps of Cadets Center on the Texas A&M University campus. Both graduating seniors have excelled academically while distinguishing themselves as leaders at Texas A&M and in the community.
Former Foundation trustee Melbern Glasscock and his wife Susanne created the endowed award in 2012 to honor an exceptional student at Texas A&M University. Besides succeeding academically and as leaders, these recipients have overcome significant personal or family financial challenges to attend Texas A&M. The Outstanding Student Award includes a cash prize of $2,500.
Castillo, who is the first in her family to attend college, set her heart on attending Texas A&M after coming to the campus as a high school student to participate in the state science fair.
“When we visited the campus, I immediately liked the environment and the people,” the Regents’ Scholarship recipient said. “I applied to other schools, but Texas A&M was the only one that I could see myself attending.”
Castillo is majoring in molecular and cell biology and minoring in Spanish and plans to pursue a medical degree after graduating this month. Originally born outside of Chicago, Castillo moved with her family to a small Mexican town when she was a young girl. There, she watched as relatives and community members were unable to easily access medical care. One of these relatives was her father Eduardo, who died of leukemia when Castillo was 2.
As a teenager, Castillo moved with her mother to San Antonio. There she saw how many U.S. doctors have difficulty communicating effectively with Spanish-speaking patients, thus creating a barrier to quality health care. After completing medical school, Castillo plans to help fill this gap by working primarily with Spanish-speaking patients.
“Brenda’s desire to help people who are experiencing difficulties in accessing quality health care is the epitome of selfless service that every Aggie strives to exemplify,” said Bill Toler, chairman of the Foundation’s Board of Trustees. “She is an excellent representative of the kind of student and Aggie for whom this award was originally created.”
Castillo was a research assistant at Texas A&M’s College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences and volunteered for several organizations, including health care facilities and the Brazos Interfaith Immigration Network.
Castillo served as the vice president of the Hispanic President’s Council and managed the website and social media for Alpha Epsilon Delta Pre-Medical Honor Society. As a sophomore, she participated in the Spring Leadership Exchange, during which she had the opportunity to travel to Texas A&M’s Qatar campus. She also worked as a mentor for the Regents’ Scholarship FOCUS Learning Community and as a supplemental instruction leader.
“Texas A&M has been a place of growth for me in different ways,” Castillo said. “The academics were challenging, and I’ve had to overcome a lot to graduate. The opportunities I’ve had have made me a better individual by allowing me to understand people from different cultures and backgrounds.”
Castillo will enroll in Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso Paul L. Foster School of Medicine in the fall.
“The Trustees’ Outstanding Student Award is like a farewell gift from Texas A&M,” Castillo said. “This award will allow me to begin the path toward being able to serve both of my countries as a bilingual physician.”
Joshua Sutton of Evans City, Pennsylvania enrolled at Texas A&M at the age of 24 after enlisting in the U.S. Army. He served six years as a crew chief and flight engineer on Chinook helicopters and was stationed at Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, Georgia; Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan; and Camp Humphreys in South Korea.
As the end of his military commitment neared, Sutton started looking at schools to further his education. He chose Texas A&M after some persuasion by his wife’s family, many of whom are Aggies. Sutton chose to major in food science and technology and minor in business administration. He also joined the Corps of Cadets’ Delta Company as a freshman and later served as the company’s first sergeant and commander.
“Texas A&M has given me a strong academic foundation and the tools to succeed in the future,” he said. “It’s also given me the confidence that I can be properly suited in a job and prepared to excel.”
Sutton held several internships as a student, including opportunities at Spoetzl Brewery, the brewer of Shiner Beers, and the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group.
“Joshua is among a distinguished group of military veterans who are coming to Texas A&M to further their education after nobly serving their country,” Toler said. “He exemplifies what these students bring to our university—discipline, drive, leadership ability and an understanding of real-world issues.”
Sutton received numerous scholarships to pursue his degree, and the support allowed him to concentrate on his studies while also supporting his wife’s small business.
“There have been times over the past four years that my wife considered closing her business due to financial pressures,” Sutton said. “Having her sacrifice her passion was never an option for me, as I would do anything to support her the way she has supported me. In these times, scholarship aid has provided for our daily expenses while helping us avoid the additional stress of compromising our dreams.”
From 2014 to 2016, Sutton was the General O.R. Simpson Corps of Cadets Honor Society staff member charged with providing academic support. In that role, he matched more than 150 society members with over 2,400 Corps members who were seeking tutoring and mentoring support. He also served in the Ross Volunteer Company, as a Texas A&M Foundation Maroon Coat, and as a Fish Camp counselor.
“I already thought before I came to A&M that I was a leader because of my time in the military, but a lot of the leadership classes and opportunities that I’ve had through different organizations have really refined that and helped me see different styles of leadership,” Sutton said. “My education laid the groundwork, but my involvement in the different organizations helped shape who I am, how I approach things and hopefully how I’ll succeed in the future.”
After graduation, Sutton will join HEB’s corporate headquarters as an associate product development manager for HEB-branded goods, including the company’s Hill Country Fair, HEB and Central Market brands. Sutton will use the funds from his Outstanding Student Award to support his family’s move to San Antonio for his new position.
“When I was called and told I won the award, I was completely shocked,” Sutton said. “It is a humbling experience.”