A: Yes, I am the first in my family. And I will be the first to go to college. My parents are happy about this.
Q: We understand you were 12 when you moved here from a Mexico City suburb and that you spoke not a word of English.
A: My mother put me in fifth grade instead of sixth. On my first day at school, people were saying 'Hi' and I remember wondering what it meant. At school, I worked hard, but I was so stressed out I would get headaches and beg to go home. In Mexico, school was much more strict and I had promised my uncle I would graduate from high school. So I decided I had to keep going.
Q: What was your senior project this year?
A: I volunteered two evenings a week at Everett Community College helping people learn to speak English. I know what it is like to have to learn a second language. I've been in their places. You have to start learning as if you are a baby. My students were from Latin America, China and Africa. It was a conversational English class and we worked a lot on vocabulary.
Q: You went to Stanwood High School before transferring to Arlington?
A: Yes. I joined Family, Career and Community Leaders of America and we competed at the state FCCLA competition. I loved my teachers, Meg Hozak and Michelle Freeman at Stanwood. I learned from the club about the value of family and serving your community.
Q: Family took on a new meaning in your junior year when your mom was hospitalized, right?
A: Yes. My mom had a high-risk pregnancy and had to be put into a coma for awhile. Then my brother was born prematurely. I missed almost two months of school so I could help my mom in the hospital while my dad took care of my siblings at home.
Q: Did that make you wonder if you would reach your goal to graduate?
A: I was very behind and still worried about my mom. But my teacher, Kim Ramirez at Arlington, has helped me get caught up. She became my mom at school.
Q: What do you do to relax?
A: I go running and listen to romantic music on my earphones.
Q: What are your favorite classes?
A: I like weight training, dancing and working out. I also run and I would like to learn how to box. I might want to teach physical education or health. Also, I like my English class and my drama class, so I might want to be an English teacher. I have a lot of fun in drama. I figured out that it is better to be a little weird than to be boring. In English, my teacher, Nick Brown, asked us the question, 'Is life based on literature or is literature based on life?' I like thinking about those things.
Q: Sounds like you really do want to be a teacher. Where will you start your college education?
A: I want to be a teacher because I believe that kids are our future. Teachers have such impact on lives. I plan to start at Everett Community College.
Q: Will you have to work to pay for school?
A: I have a job at McDonald's in Smokey Point. I work as much as I can, including the 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. shift on Fridays and Saturdays. I have to pay my own way to school. I learned about hard work from my parents.
Q: Do you know about the DREAM Act, the bill that would allow undocumented immigrants who came as children to become legal residents?
A: I favor the DREAM Act. People want to say this is not my home. I did not choose to come here, but it is my home and it always will be. To think otherwise is unfair. I care about my community and I think I can make it even better. It is not cool to close doors to people who could make the United States even better.
I am fortunate to have a good family. Many kids are not that lucky. What are they going to do?
Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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