WOODLAND -- Bianka Aceves Martín dreams to one day be able to help people.
At the tender age of four, she had a severe asthma attack that landed her in the hospital. Lying in that hospital bed she wondered if she would survive. In between bouts of fear and anxiety, she took notice of one thing. There were dedicated nurses and doctors that helped her and made her feel better. The observation gave her inspiration.
"I can't tell you whether or not that experience influenced my decision to become a doctor, but it definitely contributed to it because ever since I was a child growing up in México, I would tell everyone in my family that I was going to grow up and become a doctor one day," Aceves Martín said.
The 17-year old Pioneer High School graduate who recently got admitted to the University of California, Los Ángeles will begin her journey this fall, hoping to major in biochemical science and eventually become a pediatrician.
Aceves Martín, who will be the first in her family to get a college education, attributes her academic success -- having earned both a 4.19 grade point average and a $20,000 Dell Scholarship -- to her parents, her role models.
"My parents always encouraged me to do my homework. They stayed awake late at night to help me study and my mom would make food for me and bring me snacks when I stayed up all night to study for exams. My mother regrets not having the opportunity to go to school and I believe that's why she always told me the importance of getting a good education," Aceves Martín said.
She also earned a $10,000 Nordstrom Scholarship and a $1,000 scholarship through the Local Carpenter Union Association. The Yolo Mexican-American Concilio awarded her $500.
Just last year, the young Aceves Martín went through one of the most difficult times in her life. Her father José, a life-long construction worker and native of Tepatitlán, Jalisco, had traveled to México to visit his family and passed away unexpectedly.
The sudden loss of her father didn't faze her despite how emotionally distraught she recalls being. Her grades didn't suffer nor did it keep her from fulfilling her dreams.
"It was really painful losing my dad. He was always there for me. He was my hero. He was also very proud of me. Every time I would get an award, he would cook my favorite meal and whenever I received brochures through the mail from different colleges, he would get so excited for me," she said.
He also always told her, "In my eyes mija, you are already a doctor -- my doctor."
Aceves Martín stayed focused on her studies. A native Spanish speaker, learning English was the first big obstacle she had to overcome when she arrived in the United States at the age of eight. She turned her frustrations into hard work and determination.
She never let an opportunity pass her by.
During her four years in high school, Aceves Martín dedicated her free time volunteering at the Yolo Family Resource Center, a place that helped low-income families. It was there she wrote articles for the center's monthly bilingual newspaper covering youth news. She would help point single mothers to the right resources; the youth to healthy activities so they could stay out of trouble; and, provide assistance at the food bank for needy families.
In 2010 at the age of 15, she became the youngest person in Yolo County to become a certified tax preparer. For five Saturdays in a row, she underwent intense training in order to help low-income families prepare their income taxes for free.
Last summer, she was selected as a Bank of America student leader and participated in the leadership program which selects 400 students nationally and provides unique internship opportunities. Aceves Martín was one of four students from the Sacramento area that were chosen. For 8 weeks, she worked at the Sacramento Food Bank, then traveled to Washington, D.C. to meet with other student leaders from around the world.
"It was a great and rewarding experience. I was very lucky," she said.
Aceves Martín was also a Future Farmers of America member, the treasurer of the Spanish club, and a tutor at the Freshmen Academy at her high school. She took advanced placement courses and was an athlete on the tennis team.
She was also an AVID student.
Every day, she was at school by 7 a.m. to help learn how to best prepare for college. It was one of her favorite classes and one she almost considered dropping out of when her father passed away.
"My mom had to stay home and take care of my younger sisters and with my father gone, I didn't have a ride to school, but I had an amazing teacher who picked me up every single day for an entire year because she wanted to see me succeed," recalls Aceves Martín.
That teacher was Mrs. Shenk-Tiffany.
"She has always been very supportive of me. She helped me apply to colleges and I couldn't have done it without her help. If I needed someone to talk to, she was there. If I had questions, she was there. When I told her I couldn't go to AVID class, she picked me up at my house everyday. She helped me out. No other teacher would have done that," Aceves Martín said.
Today, her eyes are set on her future at UCLA and beyond. She hopes to return to the Sacramento area and hopefully apply to medical school at UC Davis.
"I can't tell you how exciting it is to see all my hard work pay off. I got into the school I wanted, I have the scholarship money to help me, I'm the first in my family to graduate from high school. I just want to do this for my parents, especially my dad," she said.
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