As students enter high school freshman year, there’s one thing that most of them look forward to: graduation. The long wait for the class of 2015 has finally arrived!
High school graduation isn’t just the end of an era, but also the beginning of a new phase of life.

Each high school has a student that’s ranked number one in the class and has the honor of being Class Valedictorian. Although presented with various challenges, these students have managed to balance academics with extracurricular activities, all while maintaining the highest G.P.A.s in their schools’ senior classes.

Boyle Heights Beat spoke with five valedictorians who shared their motivations, challenges and advice for incoming seniors.


Diego Espino
Age: 18
School: Francisco Bravo Medical Magnet High School
GPA: 4.405
College: Middlebury College
Major: Undeclared

Who or what inspired/motivated you to do so well in school?
My mom, because I come from a low-income family, so I have to do my best because I’m expected to. My parents weren’t really that tough on me, but I did it on my own because I knew I had to work hard if I wanted to get far.

What are you going to miss the most about high school and why?
The thing I’m going to miss the most about high school are the cross country and track team people because that’s my group of my friends that I’ve had since the beginning of my freshmen year.


Maricsa Gomez
Age: 17
School: Felicitas y Gonzalo Mendez High School
GPA: 4.175
College: UCLA

Who or what inspired/motivated you to do so well in school?
I think my parents because since they’re from Mexico and they came here for us, they’ve always pushed it on us. I always thought about them and wanted to do well for them.

What’s the biggest lesson you have learned from your high school experience?
You can count on people even when you think no one’s going to be there. Like if you’re struggling with stuff, there’s always someone there to help you out.


Cesar Ramos
Age: 17
School: Oscar De La Hoya Animo Charter High School
GPA: 4.31 weighted, 3.98 unweighted
College: University of California, Irvine
Major: Aerospace Engineering

What was your biggest challenge throughout high school?
My biggest challenge was balancing my social life, work life and academic life. I balanced two jobs while involved in school and trying to keep up my grades and then still keep in touch with my friends.

What’s the biggest lesson you have learned from your high school experience?
The most important thing I learned in high school and in my life so far is that it doesn’t matter who’s the most intelligent, but the most hard-working, because they always get rewarded.

What are you going to miss the most about high school and why?
I’m going to miss my school because it’s very small, so you get very comfortable with the staff, the students and the environment itself. It’s very comfortable I can ask anybody anything. I can talk to the principal, assistant principal, the office managers and just have a normal conversation. I’m going to miss that a lot.

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Alison Salazar
Age: 18
School: Math, Science, and Technology Magnet Academy at Roosevelt High School
GPA: 4.5
College: Occidental College
Major: Environmental Engineer

How do you feel about being named the valedictorian at your school?
Personally, I don’t feel particularly special or important as valedictorian, but I am very proud of myself. Of course, it is a great honor, but I don’t think our GPA can measure how we have all grown as individuals or students, and in the end, I feel like that is what can truly define us.

What advice do you have for other students finishing high school?
I encourage and advise students, regardless of age, to dream big and to never let others determine your dreams. I also advise everyone to become involved in our community. Boyle Heights is beautiful and rich in culture, yet a lot of us fail to see that. With involvement, I guarantee that anyone could fall in love and gain great pride.

What do you hope to achieve in your future?
Many Boyle Heights residents seek escape from our community and ignore the fact that while they prosper, hard-working students are left behind. I yearn to receive an education, not only to help myself, but students like me. Unlike many Latinas, I will pursue a STEM career in college. I plan to expose students from my school and community to STEM careers and what it means to be an engineer or scientist or astronaut, and with them find solutions to the problems that the world needs solutions for.

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Michael Mojarro
Age: 18
School: Bishop Mora Salesian High School
GPA: 4.2
College: DePaul University
Major: Pre-Med

How do you feel about being named the valedictorian at your school?
It was a great honor being named valedictorian. I feel as if it was a collaborative effort. My whole class was behind me and kept supporting me throughout my years at Salesian to keep pushing. It is a great feeling of accomplishment. Though the four-year journey has come to an end, it was all worth it.

What do you hope to achieve in your future?
I hope to one day be able to give back to my community, especially the Salesian community. I believe that you may only seek happiness through others. When you help somebody accomplish his or her goals, no matter how big or small, that is what will make you happy. Knowing that you were a part of something bigger than yourself.

Daisy Escorcia and Maria Bonilla contributed to this story.

Featured photo by Erik Sarni

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Jacqueline Ramírez

Jacqueline Ramírez is a former reporter and recent graduate from Mount Saint Mary’s University. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and New Media. She enjoys sharing the art of storytelling...

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