Several of the awards Jesica Garcia has won for being a good student hang on her living room wall.
She didn’t put them there. Her mom did. Maria Garcia was so proud of her oldest girl she couldn’t help it.
Today, the wall gets another addition, the best one yet: Jesica’s high school diploma.
“We’re really proud of her. She knows how to succeed in life,” said Maria, speaking in Spanish through her daughter.
Jesica, 18, will be the first in her family to earn a high school diploma when she graduates with Pasco High School’s Class of 2008.
She’s also going to be the first to go to college. She’s headed to Washington State University, where she plans to study education, science and teaching English as a second language.
Jesica is sixth in her class with a 3.93 grade-point average and has earned more than $50,000 in scholarships.
She wants to become a teacher, inspired in part by the ones who helped her succeed after she moved to the U.S. and didn’t know any English.
Jesica came here with her family from Mexico when she was 12. Relatives worried it would be especially difficult for her to learn the language because she was no longer a little kid.
But she threw herself into school, working hard and emerging as a leader in her quiet way.
“She is very unselfish and she wants to (learn),” said Chriselda Beraza, a counselor at Pasco High. “She wants to come back and contribute to the community by being a teacher to help others get there as well. That in a nutshell says who she is.”
Jesica keeps a schedule that could exhaust a triathlete. She goes to school, is involved in several Pasco High clubs and volunteers as a tutor at Whittier Elementary School in Pasco.
When she comes home after a long day, she immediately goes to her room and doesn’t come out until her homework is done, her mother said.
In the summer, she works helping her family top onions.
Jesica’s parents are Alfredo and Maria Garcia. She has three younger sisters, Erika, 14, Maricela, 13, and Kimberly, 11 months.
“(Jesica) is just very strong. She didn’t even realize it (at first). She didn’t know she had all this potential,” Beraza said. “As the years went on ... she’s discovered her potential. It’s been a beautiful thing.”
Jesica said she’s proud of her hard work. School has given her the tools she needs to succeed in the future, and she’s also learned never to give up on her dreams, she said.
“One has to learn to ignore those voices that tell you that you can’t,” she said.
She’s excited to walk across the stage in her cap and gown, knowing her family will be there watching and cheering.
“As soon as I get my diploma,” she said, “I think I’m going to scream.”