Bloomington valedictorian breaks language barrier, plans to study engineering
May 25, 2010 at 12:25 a.m.
Updated June 4, 2010 at 1:04 a.m.
BLOOMINGTON - Coming from a small school, Bloomington High School valedictorian Diana Gonzalez and salutatorian Crystal Alvarado have always had a friendly competition for who was at the top of the class.
They both say that no matter how small the school, you have to keep dreaming big.
If school would come hard for any student, it would probably hold true for Gonzalez.
Gonzalez did not know much English when she moved from San Luis, Mexico, in the second grade, but after only half a year of English as a Second Language, she had caught up with her peers.
"I don't think it was that hard," she said.
Now, she speaks both languages impeccably.
Gonzalez uses Spanish more at home with her mother, who is very proud of her daughter's accomplishments.
"She's where she is because of her strength and dedication," her mother, Maria Gonzalez, said in Spanish. "All I can do is love her."
The family had moved to America for better opportunities, and now that has been accomplished, she said.
Gonzalez will attend St. Mary's University in San Antonio to study engineering, which she has grown to like more through her internship as a clerk with LyondellBasell.
Math has always been one of her strongest subjects, the 18-year-old said.
"I think that would be something I would like to pursue as a career," she said.
When Gonzalez first moved to the states, she was not aware of what grade point averages were or what a valedictorian or salutatorian were.
It was not until junior high that she realized she was at the top of her class.
Being valedictorian was something she didn't aim for, but it is an achievement she is proud of, she said.
"It just happened," she said.
Besides being on top of her class, she also balances her internship and job with LyondellBasell, as well as working the night shift at Dairy Queen.
"I've enjoyed it all. It keeps me on my toes," she said, laughing.
Her friendly competitor in academics - Alvarado - is already registered at St. Edwards University in Austin this fall for a degree in digital media management.
It is music, Alvarado said, that has always been there for her and has helped her to dream big.
"I've always wanted to do something in music," she said as she sat outside her home in Placedo. "I've been in band since sixth grade."
In addition to playing clarinet and bass guitar, the 18-year-old said she has always been very studious.
She has to take down every note, and she is the one who people usually go to when they may have missed some notes, she said laughing.
Being ranked No. 2 in a class of 32 students is an honor, but also something that didn't come easy, she said.
"I think it just shows how much I've worked throughout all high school," she said.
The interaction she has had with music has helped her to focus on her course of study, she said.
The degree will allow her to go behind the scenes of the music that means so much to her.
It will teach her management and marketing skills with digital media, entertainment and other business aspects of media.
She said it's something exciting to pursue and something her mother, Rosemary Garcia-Atwell, is very proud of.
"The entire family is proud of her, and we know she is going to do bigger things; this is just a small step," she said. "I'm always reminding her that all the hard work will pay off, and being salutatorian is a sign that it does."
For the graduates after her, Alvarado has only one piece of advice: "Don't let going to a small school stop you from dreaming big."