Student was determined to hurdle English Language Learners requirement
For many high school grads, college is a chance to get away from home, stretch their wings and live independently from their parents for the first time.
In a word, it's freedom - and Arely Sanchez is looking forward to it.
'I always feel like I'm 15 even though I'm 18, because my parents are overprotective,' the Banks High School senior said last week. 'I know they mean well, and they only do it because they care about me.'
Still, Sanchez can hardly wait to pack her bags and head down to Monmouth, where she'll live in a dormitory during her first year at Western Oregon University next fall.
'I'm a shy person, so it will be a new experience for me,' said the raven-haired daughter of Mexican immigrants. 'It makes me nervous, but really, I'm more excited than scared.'
Sanchez, one of 76 members of the Class of 2011 set to grab their diplomas Friday, worked hard to excel in high school. She moved with her family from Hillsboro to Banks before she entered eighth-grade at Banks Junior High, and struggled to find her place when she became a freshman.
'I thought it was going to be a slow four years, because at first I wasn't happy to be here,' said Sanchez. 'But then it got better. I just decided to get involved.'
She played the saxophone in the ninth-grade jazz band and caught the soccer bug as a sophomore. Sanchez was accepted into National Honor Society during her junior year and started volunteering at the Banks Public Library and at a nursing home in Forest Grove.
'I helped out with the residents' exercise program, giving them a hand walking around the building and pushing their wheelchairs,' she said. 'I also painted the ladies' fingernails.'
Sanchez, the oldest of Pablo Sanchez and Esperanza Reyes' three children, grew up speaking Spanish at home and English in school. Enrolled in English Language Learners classes until her junior year, she's closing out her career at Banks High with a 3.6 GPA.
'Arely fought hard to get herself out of ELL,' said Principal Jim Smith, who described Sanchez as 'a great person' with lofty goals.
'She wants to pursue her studies in mathematics and Spanish education,' he noted.
Good teaching program
Sanchez herself is a little more circumspect.
'I wanted a good teaching program, so that's why I'm going to Western Oregon,' she said. 'I heard a lot of good things about it from Mr. Hardie (Banks High counselor Tim Hardie).'
A campus tour last fall sealed the deal for Sanchez, who was awarded a Banks High School diversity scholarship worth $3,500. Student loans and grants from the federal government will take care of the bulk of her higher education bills, she said.
As the first in her family to go to college, Sanchez feels a particular obligation to excel in her studies.
'It makes me feel like we're improving and not staying behind,' she said. 'I am nervous, though. I don't want to disappoint my parents and I don't want to lose my scholarships.'
Sanchez's desire to go into education hearkens back to the first grade, when a friend was unable to communicate in English with her teacher.
'She was crying because she didn't know how tell her she had to go to the bathroom,' Sanchez recalled. 'From then on I wanted to be a teacher, so no kid would have to feel like that again.'
With her younger sister Janet, 17, and brother Pablo, 13, coming up through the ranks in Banks, Sanchez is keenly aware of her obligation to set a positive scholarly example. And she has another reason to perform well during her higher education career and beyond.
She'd like to give her father, who has worked at Evers Farm on Highway 47 for a number of years, a chance to retire someday.
'If I finish early and go to work as a teacher, I think I can help my dad out of there,' Sanchez said. 'His dream is to go back to Mexico to retire.
'I tell my dad, 'I'm going to build a house right behind yours when I get enough money. I'll travel back and forth to visit you.''