June 2, 2008

17 Hialeah High Students Are Off to the Ivy League

By Laura Figueroa, The Miami Herald

May 31--The curriculum at several Ivy League universities is about to be extended with one more offering -- a crash course in all things Hialeah, boasts a group of seniors at Hialeah High School.

Despite being ranked an "F" school by the state-based FCAT scores, this year's graduating class has generated its largest group of Ivy League-bound students.

Seventeen students have been accepted to Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth, Columbia, Brown, Cornell, the University of Pennsylvania and Princeton -- the highest number for Hialeah High in the past seven years; the previous high was 14 in 2003.

Dartmouth alone is taking seven of them.

"We're going to learn a lot about the world outside Hialeah, but we'll also be doing some educating of our own," said Christopher Gonzalez, 18. "We'll learn about different cultures and expose them to our culture, especially the food -- pastelitos and empanadas."

The students are Jessica Artiles, Ramon Castillo, Diana Cuesta, Maria de Leon-Cuevas, Yordanis Diez, Humberto Estevez, Adriana Estor, Christopher Gonzalez, Sussette Gonzalez, Nareiby Llanes, Johanna Lopez, Sonia Lopez, Laritza Mendoza, Christina Mueller, Kristel Otero, Elias Quijano and Hanny Rivera.

The road to the head of the class was not easy. Many juggled jobs and coming home at night to finish class projects. Others had to convince skeptical parents who winced at the thought of their teenage sons and daughters going to study out of state, regardless of the caliber of school they would be attending.

Language was also a factor with several of the students, who came to the United States from countries like Cuba, Venezuela and Colombia, knowing no English, and a few will be first-generation high school graduates.

Hialeah High's CAP Advisor Alina Grandal credits the students' success to their reliance on one another. Many in the top 1 percent of the 934-student senior class have known one another as far back as elementary school.

In their final year together, they helped one another by reading over college essays or cramming together for exams.

"These kids have had big goals and dreams since the day they stepped foot in the school," Grandal said.


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