Matthew Justus took a step toward his goal of owning an automotive performance shop when he won first place in a scholarship competition at Lincoln College of Technology in Denver.
Nearly 1,000 high school seniors from across the country took Lincoln College's rigorous mechanical aptitude exam, and only 170 of those students scored high enough to be invited to submit a portfolio and compete for a chance at a scholarship to attend the school.
Justus, a recently graduated Clovis homeschool student who played on the Clovis High golf team, thought his portfolio was good enough to be competitive against the 67 other students who submitted similar materials.
The top 35 of those 67 students were invited to a banquet in Denver, where the top 10 contenders in the competition were announced and interviewed by an independent panel.
"I was pretty relaxed, actually," Justus said of the interview. "When I found out that I was in the top 10, I knew I had a better chance because I'm really good at talking with people."
Justus earned a full scholarship to the technical college.
"When they called my name, I was pretty pumped about it," he said. "It was pretty awesome."
Justus plans to get certified through Lincoln's automotive technology program, and will also receive an associate's degree from the school.
"I'll probably go on to another university to major in automotive engineering," he said.
Also garnering top honors was House resident Mark Hughes, who recently graduated from Texico High School, and finished second in the scholarship competition.
"I expected to win the whole thing, but sometimes that doesn't work out," Hughes said. "I'm definitely appreciative of what I got."
Hughes received a $15,000 scholarship toward his education at Lincoln College. He plans to enter the school's 16-month diesel technician program and will also graduate with an associate's degree in business.
The third-place prize went to Tommy Alderette from Raton.
This is the first time the three top scholarships went to students from New Mexico, according to Joe McKinney, regional manager for high school admissions at Lincoln College.
McKinney said all of the judges were impressed with the local students.
"They're really good kids," he said. "Their stuff really stood out."