Ariana Pineda said she was devastated last year when she went to check her grade point average and learned that she was ranked No. 7 in her class.
“I remember crying to my pre-calculus teacher,” the Bloomington High School senior said. “He told me, ‘You’re a runner right?,’ I said ‘Yes,’ and he said, ‘It is like a cross country race or track race: You didn’t have that great of a start, but you can always finish off strong.’
“I took in those words, and I did that.”
Pineda found out last week that she would be the school’s valedictorian this year of the 56 graduating seniors.
She will walk across the stage at Bloomington High School’s graduation Friday after giving a speech that seemed to write itself, she said.
During the past four years, Pineda said the biggest thing she learned was self-acceptance.
“I have always struggled with accepting myself, and I’ve had this huge insecurity,” she said. “I was super quiet and now I don’t even care; I just accept myself for everything I am.”
Aside from maintaining a competitive GPA, Pineda ran track and cross country, was a basketball team manager and spent senior year serving as National Honor Society president.
The graduate said she enjoyed many Saturdays at Bloomington Elementary School, where she helped teach students as part of her community service for the honor society.
“I love kids, just always liked kids and helping people. Those two things are two big things that I liked to do,” she said.
Pineda hopes to turn her passion for children and love for science into a career as a pediatrician.
Her mother, Mariana Pineda, recalls Pineda quizzing her own pediatrician about his job during regular check-ups.
“She has always wanted to be a pediatrician, and I think she can be whatever she wants to be because she always works hard,” she said. “Even her doctor, Dr. Suresh N. Pathikonda, told her, ‘It doesn’t matter how long or how many years it takes.’”
James Jenkins, Pineda’s math teacher, she said was an impressive, memorable student.
“She was very driven in an entirely impressive way. I just remember her notebook as a freshman was a work of art,” he said. “She perfected her notebook this year in calculus – it was like nothing I had ever seen before ... she had little fold-out diagrams, all kinds of things, use of color and very purposeful.”
Jenkins said he has no doubt Pineda will be successful in her endeavors.
“She had been at the college level for at least a year and has really come into her own,” he said. “I and all the rest of the teachers are very proud of her and proud of her ability to overcome adversity and finish strong.”
Pineda will start college at the University of Houston-Victoria in the fall, where she plans to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in biology before applying to medical school. She already received the UHV Presidential Scholarship and scholarships from Victoria Electric Cooperative and Catholic War Veterans to use toward her education.
Pineda said she is not nervous about college but will miss the friends she has grown up with.
“I feel like after high school, I am not going to talk to anybody (because) that is how it goes,” she said. “You just focus on yourself and make your own life. Like right here, we are forced to be with each other every day – we have no choice, but now we’re going to go on and do whatever we want, (and) we don’t all want the same thing.”