In her young life so far, Licely Carcamo has experienced the ups and downs that come with being the only child of a single mother. But no matter which way the path turned, it consistently led the Liberty High School senior toward a higher education. by: HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - With a cumulative GPA of 3.6 and a passel of extracurricular activities at Liberty High, Licely Carcamo was accepted by numerous colleges before settling on the University of Oregon.

She’s the first in her family to walk that road.

Next fall, she’ll make the University of Oregon campus in Eugene her new home, taking freshman core classes that apply toward a bachelor’s degree in pre-nursing. Because of her hard work in high school, she won full tuition coverage to the UO as well as a Diversity Excellence Scholarship worth $6,500 a year.

“I feel really grateful for that assistance,” Carcamo said during a recent interview.

The brown-haired teen with the winning smile turned 18 in February. Born in the San Fernando Valley, she recalls “flip-flopping around a lot, back and forth between California and Oregon” during her first six years.

She and her mom — who is also named Licely — eventually settled in Beaverton, where the then-first grader attended Vose Elementary. Licely Zuniga carved out a life for the two of them, going to work for Welch Allyn, a medical diagnostic equipment company, and open-enrolling her daughter in Hillsboro schools.

There, Carcamo went to Witch Hazel Elementary, the former J.B. Thomas Middle School, South Meadows Middle School and now Liberty — where she excels in academics and leadership.

“I was supposed to go to Hilhi, but my mom and I went over the options and we thought Liberty would be a good fit for me,” noted Carcamo. “I love it, even though at first it was a little difficult getting used to the idea of meeting new people and making new friends.”

Overcoming her natural shyness didn’t take her long, however, and today Carcamo’s academic and extracurricular dossier lists activities that bring together teens of all types: Interact Club, which is geared toward community service; girls lacrosse; American Red Cross, for which she won a Presidential Service Award; and an array of advanced placement (AP) classes.

Through it all, she’s collected a cumulative grade point average of 3.6.

“I got on top of my game last semester,” Carcamo said with a grin. “I had a 4.0.”

Her favorite classes include humanities and social science, courses that are “heavily about human nature,” said Carcamo. She’s also enjoying perfecting her use of verbal and written Spanish — her native language — by taking AP classes at LHS.

“I learned English by watching [the cartoon] ‘SpongeBob SquarePants,’” Carcamo joked.

Initially Carcamo wanted to go to college out of state. She applied to a few in her native California and got acceptance letters from Cal State San Jose and Long Beach State. And, she got into Linfield College and the University of Portland — but then the practical matter of finances came into play.

“I got the full ride to the U of O,” she explained.

Eager to get her college career rolling, Carcamo has signed up to live in Carson Residence Hall on campus. Come September, she’ll be rooming with Kiyomi Manabe, a friend and classmate from Liberty.

“We’re both pretty serious students,” she said.

After two years at UO, she said she’ll consider transferring to the University of Portland or Linfield. Long term, her aspirations may take her to Peru, her mother’s native country.

Licely Zuniga finished high school in the South American republic, but did not go on to college. She wants something more for her daughter.

“I’m her priority in life,” said Carcamo. “She always says to me, ‘You can grow up and do nothing with your life. Or you can grow up and do something really incredible.’”

Though Carcamo admits “it’s a little scary” being the first in her family to attend college, she’s going to do her best to make her mom proud. No problem there — she already has.

Out of the 347 students in the Class of 2014, Carcamo is among a relative few inducted into the National Honor Society during her four years at Liberty. She credits her teachers for much of that success.

“All of my teachers have equally contributed something important to my life,” she said.

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