Eight DeSoto students won the TCU Community Scholar Award, giving them each a full ride to the home of the Horned Frogs.
Students from close to a dozen schools vied for the award.
Johnathan Villalobos is one of the award recipients. His father is in federal prison, and he and his three siblings were raised by their mother.
Money was always tight; the family lost their home and moved around a lot.
Yet Villalobos stayed strong in his academics and busy in band while keeping a close relationship with his mother, who is a survivor of domestic abuse.
"For him to receive this opens a door that I never thought could open," said Villalobos' mother, Estella Segovia.
There was no pressure to sign on Friday, but many have.
Money talks, even in families of rival schools.
"I'm an Aggie," said Henry Campbell, the father of an award recipient. "She got accepted to A&M. Bottom line is, this is a good opportunity for her. Like I said, for $250,000, I can throw away all my Aggie stuff!"
Students needed high GPAs, leadership and a certain undefinable quality to make it.
"You really can't pinpoint it," said Tamika Gordon, who works with the Community Scholars Program. "It's just that hunger. That desire that this is an opportunity; that if they seize it, they're gonna make the best of it."
Villalobos says he's undecided on a major, but says he's good at math and is thinking of a career in business or medicine.