Student from Migrant Family Overcomes Many Hurdles to Make it to UCLA

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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 2021.

1crImagine four students attending class remotely on their computers from the same small hotel room for a month. That was the reality for Maria Oregel Lopez and her siblings after a fire displaced her family from their Oxnard apartment earlier this year. “There were six of us living in one room with two beds,” she recalls. “It was pretty chaotic.”

The fire was just the latest in a series of challenges that haven’t stopped this Oxnard High School senior from achieving her goals. When she was seven years old, her father was deported to Mexico and all but disappeared from her life. Later, her mom suffered an injury that forced her to give up her job picking crops.

class-of-2021Maria realized from a young age that education was the key to building a better life, and she threw herself into her studies. Her hard work and determination are paying off in a big way. She is about to graduate near the top of her high school class, and she’ll be attending UCLA this fall.

Throughout high school, Maria also shined beyond her academic achievements. She threw discus and shot put on the school’s track and field team. She also participated in debate competitions for students from migrant families and helped her team make it to the state competition. “It really helped my presentational skills,” she says. “Having to present in front of judges made me more open to talking in front of people.”

Maria was also very involved in her school’s AVID Club, which gives students from underrepresented groups extra support to help them get into college. She eventually rose to become the club’s president, and she credits club director Wendy Henchy with helping make her college dreams a reality. “She’s always been there for me, guiding me. She helped me a lot with my college applications.”

So, what’s her secret to refusing to be knocked down by the roadblocks that have been thrown at her? “The main thing for me is not complaining about it when taking all of these hits,” she says. “It’s just one of those things you have to deal with and not get caught up in it.”

Maria intends to pursue a career as an attorney and practice family law. “I want to be able to help kids when their parents divorce and they feel displaced.” she says. We have no doubt this star senior will achieve whatever she sets her mind to.


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