Former GEAR UP Student Now in Hollywood

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LA GRULLA – A fresh face in Hollywood is from the Rio Grande Valley. His first movie is about to come out on DVD and he’s a former GEAR UP student.

“It’s good to come back to my old stomping grounds,” Jose Maria Longoria III said. He’s best known as JM Longoria in his hometown of La Grulla.

Longoria is a former GEAR UP student who realized his dreams of becoming an actor.

“I’m a professional actor in Hollywood, California. I have been recently promoting a telenovela web series. It’s called ‘Sinverguenza,’ which focuses on HIV and safe sex practices specifically within the Latino community,” he said.

He’s embracing his Latino heritage.

“We shot this series in both English and Spanish. It could really address both languages. I mean I’m from Texas and I speak Spanglish,” he said.

The Texan is proud of his roots. He recently visited the Catholic church he attended.

Longoria gets a little emotional when he talks about the support of his family.

“Just to see my parents proud of what I’ve done, and you know, where I’ve come. I don’t know why I’m getting emotional… Was really, really impactful for me… was happy to see that,” he said.

The actor attributes a lot of his success to the GEAR UP program. He remembers the days when he was just learning about anything and everything.

“GEAR UP really allowed us to start exploring. They would always take us on field trips. We would go to UTPA at the time, which is the name of the university, and which I think now is UTRGV, and would just bring different people in. And we would have different speakers come in from finance or within the medical field or within the arts and just seeing,  like wow, okay, who do I relate with, what do I like know or I can at least try that, and if I don't like that I can try something else,” he said.

Longoria is really excited about his latest work in Hollywood. He’s in a movie starring Jennifer Garner and Queen Latifah.

“Also working on a film, just recently worked on a movie called ‘Miracles from Heaven’ which was shown globally, which is a movie about faith and community and believing in the goodness in people our brothers and sisters,” he said.

The “Miracles from Heaven” DVD was released this week. Longoria said don’t ever let anyone get in the way of your dreams.

“Have a dream. Don't be afraid to dream and don't let anyone laugh at you. I had people laugh at me because I said I want to be an actor. And they would go, ‘Oh that's nice.’ And now that I’m really doing it it's, ‘That's really nice, that's awesome, how do I do it too?’ But I think it takes that will and passion to do it, and kind of going beyond that fear and just going for it,” the former student said.

Longoria had one more piece of advice for students in the Valley. He said just keep pushing, keep studying and working hard. 

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