Latino TPS students graduate with good grades
By Kevin Milliken for La Prensa
June 1, 2012: Toledo Public Schools last week graduated more than two dozen Latino seniors with at least a 3.0 grade point average, proof that years of outreach efforts by Latino leaders are succeeding.
At least two of the students overcame incredible odds to graduate with honors—coming to a new country, language barriers, assimilating to life in the U.S, among others. But they did—and now will be the first in their families to pursue a college education.
Tops among the group was Woodward High School graduate Javiani Sánchez, who was salutatorian of the class of 2012 with a 4.29 GPA. The past month has proven to be an important one in his life, as he also took the oath to become a U.S. citizen.
“I’m pretty proud of myself,” he admitted. “I worked hard all four years and got my honors diploma as well. I really wanted to challenge myself, I think.”
Javiani’s family immigrated to the United States from México when he was a year old. His mom was a migrant farmworker. That proved to be the only motivation he needed while growing up in the Old South End.
“I could see how they struggled to find a job when they don’t even know any English,” he recalled. “I tried to push myself even harder to try to finish high school.”
The 18-year old took honors classes all four years of high school, but labels math as his favorite subject. He’ll enter the University of Toledo on a scholarship, but his major remains undecided, even though he’s leaning toward a career in technology of some sort. The second of six children, he’ll be the first in his family to attend college.
His senior US-American government class served as a study guide for the citizenship test. Javiani joked he went ahead and took the exam before he forgot everything he had learned. Now he’s hoping his good grades are serving as a positive example for his younger siblings.
“I like to think so, because my brother and sister are doing really, really well,” he said. “She’s a freshman and she’s top ten, I know that.”
Both will attend Waite High School in the fall.
As Genesis Fernández enters a new chapter of her life, her first name becomes more significant and appropriate. Not only is Genesis the first book in the Bible, the daughter of pastor-parents is the oldest sibling and among the first in her family to attend college in the U.S.
The 17-year old emigrated with her family from Mexico when she was just nine. Not only did she have to make new friends, she had to learn a new language. As she tried to succeed in the classroom alongside others in her age group who already knew English, she had to take bilingual classes while learning a second language on the fly.
“When I first came here, I had no clue,” she admitted. “It took me about four years to master it.”
The result: Ms. Fernández ended up taking honors and advanced-placement classes throughout high school. In other words, she not only overcame the language and cultural barriers, she excelled in academics.
“I’ve always liked to study a lot. I enjoy it,” she said. “Ever since I was little, I developed a strategy of studying, being in the library, that kind of stuff.”
Just eight years later, Ms. Fernández graduated Start High School with a 3.62 GPA—and her experience becoming bilingual is fueling a desire to learn French as well, in preparation for a career in international business. She will attend the University of Toledo on a scholarship.
“I want to take advantage of that, try to use that in whatever country I’m in, plus learn a lot of culture and stuff like that, too, she said, in obvious recognition of the global marketplace where she’d work someday. “I think that would be beneficial for me.”
Traveling the world, living and working in other nations is a big dream, but considering what Ms. Fernández has already accomplished, she now has the confidence to tackle just about anything.
“I’m really happy, because I came here to a new country, a new culture, not knowing anyone,” she said. “I don’t have a lot of family here at all. I pretty much started from zero. I tried to use a strategy, get involved with my grades. I’m just really happy that I am where I am.”
Ms. Fernández credited her parents for giving up a successful business in Mexico to move to the U.S. so she and her brother could have a better future.
“The reason we moved here was because they wanted me and my brother to have a better quality of life. Plus, they wanted us to learn another language, become bilingual,” she explained.
“Because that way, they knew we were going to have more opportunities when we got older, like finding a job and a career.”
Her parents, now co-pastors at a Latino church in East Toledo, also were a big influence on her pursuit of an education.
“It’s a really big thing for them,” she said with a laugh. “Even when I was little, they always checked my stuff I did every day at school to make sure I actually studied my homework. They really pushed me to really focus on my studies.”
Other top Latino (as supplied by TPS) students to graduate with at least a 3.0 GPA include:
Woodward High School: Elia Jiménez (3.07 GPA), Amelia Alcala (3.06), Shirley Almaraz (3.34), Thamar Sleet (3.30).
Waite High School: Alicia González (3.57 GPA), Rubén Hernández (3.45), Andrea Martin (3.47), Jacqueline Moreno (3.13), Andres Porras (4.04), Pedro Porras (3.70), Alaina Ruiz(3.85), María Villegas (3.45).
Start High School: Edward Lugo, Jr. (3.39 GPA).
Rogers High School: Victor Medina (3.56 GPA), Maritza López (3.04).
Toledo Early College High School (TECHS): Elsie Almodovar-Reyes (3.36 GPA).
Bowsher High School: Jacob Almanza (3.45 GPA), Marrisa Cantu (3.11), Erika Duarte (3.36), Melissa Fernández (3.89), Kaila Hurst (3.16), Chelsey Vanderoff (3.27), Margo Watterson (3.38), Andrew Wells (3.78).
Editor’s Note: Such top-notch students were recognized on June 1 at the Sophia Quintero Art and Cultural Center’s First Friday and in this writing in La Prensa. Students with such academic accomplishments are needed to remain in the United States even when they are not United States citizens. It is for this reason that La Prensa strongly endorses passage of the DREAM Act as urged by President Barack Obama but opposed by Republican Mitt Romney.