Our Class of 2020 and Our Valedictorian
The past few months have been filled with so much loss for our students and our community. The COVID-19 crisis not only closed our schools, but also brought sickness and financial difficulties to Brooke families, many of whom live in the hardest hit communities across the globe. The murder of George Floyd (as well as those of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and many other victims of racial violence we have grieved in past months, years, and decades) has brought us so much anguish and pain; we hope it is also brings a national reckoning about the long-standing, pervasive, and deeply ingrained culture of racism in our country.
As educators, our scholars give us more reason for hope. The Class of 2020 is our first-ever graduating class from Brooke High School. We intended this spring to be a non-stop celebration of their achievements, another loss in this crisis. But, this week, as they receive their diplomas we MUST celebrate their accomplishments. Their focus, determination and resilience has gotten them to this important milestone and those skills will be critical to their success in college and will help them become the leaders our nation so badly needs.
We are thrilled to introduce Hector Mendoza, our Class of 2020 Valedictorian, who recently shared reflections on his journey at Brooke and his hopes for the future.
What has motivated you through high school?
My family motivates me, especially my parents because they worked so hard to get me here. They have given me everything I need to be successful. It makes me work hard to take advantage of every opportunity available to me.
I started Brooke in 6th grade, when I was unaware about anything in the future. At Brooke, not only was I challenged academically, but I was also given a dream and a motive to go through school with high grades. Now, nearly seven years later, that dream has come true as I am embarking on the next exciting chapter of my academic life at Williams College.
Describe your path to college at Brooke High School.
At the beginning, I had no clue what I wanted to study in college. I figured I’d do the high school thing for a minute and think about it later. I started talking to more people, like my teachers and my older brother who works in tech, and I began considering something with computers. Then Youtube happened, and I started watching astronomy videos. During my junior year, Ms. Horne organized an astronomy club, and I realized I like computer science and astronomy a lot. I thought, why don’t I put the two together?
Describe Your College Application Process.
After a few college visits, I saw that kids needed computer science backgrounds to navigate the field of astronomy. I looked into colleges that had computer science, astronomy, and astrophysics. I started a list of schools with the college counselor from the Harvard Crimson program over the summer, then I spoke with Ms. Kerr [the Brooke High School Director of College Counseling] a lot this year. Throughout this process, I thought wherever I get in and get a good financial aid package would be a good place. I didn’t want to set my heart on anything in case I didn’t get in and was heartbroken.
What made you choose Williams College?
Williams College had everything I was looking for: hard-working students who are goal-driven beyond just getting good grades, a nice college town, the right programs, and a great financial aid package. Academically, I’m excited that I can major in astrophysics, with a minor in computer science. This combination will help me apply computer science to the real world. I’m also excited about the winter sessions where you work on a mini-project just you, a professor, and another student. It’s a chance to do something you’re interested in beyond the canon classes in topics you don’t usually cover in a class.
What are your hopes for the future?
Brooke has talked about college since I got here in 6th grade. One of the first things I heard besides how rigorous the work would be is that we are going to college. I thought, “That seems far away, why are we talking about that now?” But constantly talking about college got me excited about it, and I loved learning about all of my teachers’ experience. All of the teachers at Brooke are so passionate about what they do, and I’m so excited to find a job where I am as excited to go to work as they are and love what I do as much as they do.
What is your advice for younger students?
- Set goals. I recommend setting a large, long-term goal like going to college and having a career, because that is important. I’ll admit it is hard to stay motivated when that goal is really far off, so it’s important to have short little goals along the way. In high school, I set smaller goals like learn this piece on the piano by this month or get this grade in a specific class. Having small things that would work me up towards my larger goal kept me motivated. I also recommend always having a hobby, mostly so you’re not bored out of your mind. For me it was video games and piano; it makes me feel like I could make progress in something, especially now with how things are with the coronavirus.
- Enjoy working with others. I was very much a control freak and did everything by myself. When there was an option to do something by myself I would take it, or I would control how others did things. You can’t do everything by yourself, so even if your teammates don’t do the work exactly how you would do it, it’s ok.
- Have fun. Have fun in your high school experience and make a lot of friends. Get your sleep, don’t stay up all night. I spent a lot of time working, and looking back I would tell others to not be afraid to take some time to take a break. I like to plan things out, but remember that sometimes it’s ok to let go and let the universe take control.
About our Class of 2020
- With us since elementary and middle school, this class has not only had exceptional academic achievement, but also pioneered Brooke’s growth as we expanded into a network of schools that leads the city and state. Read about their journey.
- Their years of hard work on rigorous academics as well as countless hours doing sports, clubs and extra-curricular earned Brooke High School’s Class of 2020 acceptances to an impressive list of higher education institutions!
- Brooke High School’s AP for All program is a signature element of the students’ experience. In a previous blog post, another Class of 2020 scholar, Ariane Guerra, shares her perspective on the Brooke High curriculum.