After Fleeing Violence in Mexico, this Graduate is Top of Her Class

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This story is part of a series of profiles the Ventura County Office of Education is presenting about outstanding graduating seniors in the Class of 2019.

Angeles Montalvo was fifteen years old when her father was kidnapped and robbed near their home in Mexico. That prompted her parents to make the difficult decision to uproot the family and relocate to Oxnard. Angeles had to say goodbye to the life she knew and make new friends at a new school in an unfamiliar community. "It took me a while because I didn't know anybody," she recalls. "I'm a kind of a shy person, so it was really difficult for me to make friends."

While Angles had studied English before, she quickly discovered she wasn't as proficient as she thought. She enrolled in English Language Development (ELD) classes at Pacifica High School and further honed her skills on her own. "I started watching videos and movies with subtitles and would look for the meaning of songs I listened to, and my vocabulary really expanded," she says.

As her English improved, she began to excel academically and soon transitioned from ELD to college prep classes. She also joined Pacifica's Academy of Business, which teaches topics like entrepreneurship, accounting and marketing to students who want to pursue business-related careers.

Today, with graduation on the horizon, she is a valedictorian and ranked number one in her class. Her school counselor, David Ramos, says it's a huge accomplishment. "I work with a lot of students who come from other countries, and it's rare to see them transition to mainstream classes while maintaining straight As," he says.

Angeles says she's very grateful for the opportunity she has found in her new home, despite the challenges of starting over as a teenager. "I think coming here really helped me. If I would have stayed in Mexico, I'm pretty sure that I never would have done something like this."

This fall, Angeles will attend CSU Channel Islands as a business major while holding down a job to help cover college expenses. Her goal is to have a career in international marketing while she continues to build her American dream.


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