According to eighth grader, Ashley Mendoza, the most valuable lesson she has learned while at St. Michael’s is how to be a part of a family. As Ashley tells it, the students at St. Michael learn how to be brothers and sisters with one another, and the formation of community is, to her, the most important skill that she will take with her on her journey through life. An incredibly bright young girl, she has been accepted at St. Matthias High School and scored in the 99th percentile on the ITSP.
Ashley’s principal and teachers feel that, “she does everything she can to ‘better’ herself.” This includes being one of a very few in a selective group of students chosen this year to take the ACT. The ACT, like the SAT, is a test given to high school juniors to see where they place amongst their college bound peers. However, Ashley was selected to take the ACT four years before most of her classmates will take it. A member of the decathlon team, Ashley constantly finds new ways to challenge herself and broaden her horizons.
Ashley has attended St. Michael since the third grade; her mom works at the school to help with tuition. Ashley says she will never forget her sixth grade teacher, Mrs. Cayetano, for the invaluable life lessons that were imparted to her. Her favorite subject in school is math. She is extremely excited about starting high school, and dreams of becoming a pediatrician when she grows up so she can help sick children, and make them feel better.
A well-rounded student who enjoys listening to music and reading, and who fluently speaks both English and Spanish, she is an excellent example of why Vision of Hope exists. Financial matters make it difficult for her family to afford tuition, but they feel the rewards are worth it. A thirteen-year-old girl who loves school and is dedicated to her education and enriching her mind is amazing to witness.
The event that Ashley is most looking forward to this summer is a trip that she is taking to Washington D.C. with her graduating eighth grade class. In many inner-city schools, there would be no funds available for such an eye-opening experience, but at St. Michael, the students’ creativity and imagination are encouraged. It was her class’s vision to go on a trip to D.C., and they organized and implemented the events that provided the money for this trip.
For many of our inner city youth, trips to D.C. and dreams of becoming a doctor vanish into thin air when there is no external support system in place. For Ashley, such a support system has allowed her to more fully realize her dreams and visions. She says that her mother is her role model because her mom has always been there for her. Supportive parenting has been a key ingredient in Ashley’s success, just as a supportive community has been vital in protecting Ashley and her mother’s dreams.