2012'S SUPER GRADUATES
Whitney student overcomes odds
Vida en el Valle
(Published Tuesday, June 5th, 2012 11:43AM)
SACRAMENTO -- When Verónica Ruiz Quiñonez reflects on her high school achievements, she attributes them to the experiences of her parents who emigrated from México.
Her mother, Amparo, uprooted from her native Durango, México shortly after both her parents died unexpectedly.
Orphaned at 15 -- and the eldest of six brothers and sisters -- Amparo felt a need to care for her siblings. She packed as much clothing, along with a handful of photographs, into a suitcase and headed north.
Amparo crossed the border with her siblings, and started selling roses on street corners. On weekends, she sold trinkets at the flea markets -- the only place that reminded her of home.
"My mom had to grow up at a very young age. She didn't have any money, spoke no English and came to a country she knew nothing about but she did it to help support her brothers and sisters," said Quiñonez.
"She was and continues to be brave. Whenever there have been trials in my life, I think of her and the challenges she faced and how she overcame."
Her father Jesús, a Wisconsin native, helped his parents and large farmworker family pull themselves out of poverty after arriving from México. He even gave up his dream of becoming a chiropractor to help with finances.
The 18-year-old senior at Whitney High School in Roseville said her parents have always pushed her to be the best student she can be.
"I have learned the biggest life lessons from my family, and that is why I don't' take anything for granted. They have taught me to count my blessings and to work very hard to get what I want out of life," said Quiñonez.
She has a 4.0 GPA.
"I have always been an over-achiever. I have always been super diligent and have done everything possible to get ahead. I like working hard, especially for my goals and my dreams," said Quiñonez.
Two months ago, she was accepted to UC Davis.
"I applied to 19 scholarships and I kept receiving letters in the mail turning me down. My parents can't afford to pay for my education at UC Davis so I was really starting to worry and making other plans to start maybe, at a community college and then transfer," said Quinonez.
One day, she came home from school and saw a UC Davis sweater hanging on the stairs. Her father was strumming the guitar with a grin on his face. Her brother was holding a camera and videotaping her reaction as soon as she walked through the door.
There was a large envelope taped to the back of the sweatshirt.
"When I opened it, I fell to the ground. I somehow knew it was good news but it was so overwhelming. I was speechless," said Quiñonez.
When she opened the package, she learned she was among the 1,000 students nationally who won a Gates Millennium Scholarship, which will cover all of her tuition and costs at a college of her choice.
"I want to study human development because it's a very versatile major and there are many careers you can go into," she said. "I've always considered medical school but finances have always been tight in our family so I almost didn't consider going. But, with this scholarship, the possibilities are endless."
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