By Jackie Ramirez and David Galindo

The Roosevelt High School Class of 2014 gets ready to walk the stage. Photo by Art Torres.
The Roosevelt High School Class of 2014 gets ready to walk the stage. Photo by Art Torres.

For many students, high school graduation marks the transition from adolescence into adulthood. Throughout high school, students learn many valuable lessons, including how to manage time and stress, communicate with different people and interact with the world around them. As students embark on the next step, many new challenges will be presented.

In each high school, one person begins his or her college career with a distinguishing title: Class Valedictorian.

Valedictorians are usually more than just students with the highest GPAs in their classes. These students have usually excelled throughout their high school careers. They have juggled multiple responsibilities, such as sports, clubs and community service. They have challenged themselves academically and socially. With high spirits and ambitions, the valedictorians from high schools in Boyle Heights will continue on to some of the most prestigious schools in the country.


Francisco Bravo Medical Magnet High School

Thanh Tran

Age: 17

GPA: 4.34

Going to: Yale University

What challenges did you overcome to become valedictorian?

Some challenges were staying up late at night studying and balancing extracurricular activities, because I was committed to cross country, the track team, National Honor Society (NHS) and volunteering at the LAC + USC County Hospital. Just balancing all those extracurricular activities, studying at home; it was just a challenge.

What have you learned from your experience in high school?

Instead of procrastinating, just do work ahead of time. You need to learn how to balance yourself, don’t stress too much. You could always recover your grade. Just don’t stress too much about anything.

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Theodore Roosevelt High School

Nicole Piña

Age: 17

GPA: 4.3

Going to: Yale University

Major: English

What challenges did you overcome to become valedictorian?

The biggest problem that I probably faced was the fact that I live in Huntington Park, so I had to take the bus at 6:30 every morning. It was very difficult because I was taking three APsevery year. It was hard for me to go home and do my homework, extracurriculars, tests, practices and stuff like that.

Who inspired you to do so well in school?

My parents definitely inspired me to work hard. Even though they didn’t have opportunities that I have today, they are some of the most intelligent people I know. They are hard workers, too, and I want to live in their legacy.

What have you learned from your experience in high school?

I think the biggest thing I’ve learned is that your academics are very important and that they will impact the person you’ll be and the places you’ll go, but you should also take the time to have fun and spend time with your friends.

What are you most excited about when it comes to college?

I’m excited about the new environment. Actually, I’m more scared than I am excited, but I went during the summer to visit Yale, and there were so many nice people, different people, and I know that that’s going to make me a better person.


Ánimo Óscar de la Hoya Charter High School

Aramar Cuevas

Age 18

GPA: 4.36

Going to: Brown University

Major: Biology

What challenges did you overcome to become valedictorian?

Well, it was difficult managing five AP courses all in one year. I was in a program called College Match, and they required us to take [all] the courses the school would offer. Basically, they help us with SAT classes and through the college application process.

Who inspired you to do so well in school?

I would like to say my older sisters, because they both work hard and both currently are in college, and I wanted to follow their footsteps.

What will you miss most about high school?

I really appreciated helpful teachers who are usually on your back, pushing you.


Felicitas and Gonzalo Méndez High School

Egmidio Medina

Age: 18

GPA: 4.1

Going to: Dickinson College

Who inspired you to do so well at school?

I really wanted to go out of state [for college] because I wanted to see different ideas and new people. Right here, we’re in a Latino-based community and everyone knows the same roots and same traditions, so I want to see people elsewhere and see how they live.

You received a four-year, full-tuition  scholarship from the Posse Foundation, which selects about 600 students a year and groups them into posses of 10 students from the same city to go to an elite college together. What have been the greatest benefits from that program?

The support that we receive from the nine people around the area we’re in and the set of weekly meetings to assess and evaluate what we’re doing. We will also benefit from a mentor who will talk to us and discuss how we’re doing [in college].


Bishop Mora Salesian High School

Daniel Pérez

Age: 17

GPA: 4.3

Going to: California State University Long Beach

Major:  Mechanical Engineering

What challenges did you face in becoming valedictorian?

[A lack of] services provided in our communities. We really didn’t have many big computers or teachers that involved us in science. I would say that the way I motivated myself was through my siblings. I also motivated myself to keep on going and study on my own.

Who inspired you throughout high school?

I had many teachers that contributed to the life lessons. My teachers would incorporate the life lesson within the subject. For example, my math teacher would explain his career as an engineer and his life in college. It all inspired us as a class to never give up. It was really inspiring because it all came back to the math we would learn in class. It was a great experience.

What will you miss most about high school?

I will miss the brotherhood. I know it’s really cliché. At Salesian, it was really about all the friendships we made. Since it was an all-boys school, it was really hard to adjust to the different environment [coming from co-ed schools]. Since I got along with everyone there, it’s kind of hard leaving everyone behind, because now we’re going to move on to college and experience both guys and girls [in the same classroom]. It’ll be hard, but I guess I can do it.

Additional photos by Jackie Ramirez and David Galindo.

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Boyle Heights Beat

Boyle Heights Beat is a bilingual community newspaper produced by its youth "por y para la comunidad". The newspaper and its sister website serve an immigrant neighborhood in East Los Angeles of just under...

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