Ukiah Unified School District

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The Power of Partnership, Innovation and Learning

Valeria Estrada, Ukiah High School Senior, Named Student of the Year

Winning this award is an extremely tough honor to achieve with no shortage of competition. Region 2 is the largest Migrant Education region in California, which is broken up into three areas. Ukiah is part of the Santa Rosa area, with Oroville and Woodland making up the other two.

Starting at a very young age, Valeria pushed and challenged herself to take challenging courses and to get involved in her community. She credits her parents for motivating her and setting a great example. She is in Club Latino, an academic preparation program for college called MESA–an acronym for Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement, and The California Scholarship Federation (CSF). Valeria has been a Student of the Month for five consecutive years and has an overall GPA of 4.17.

Valeria has been busy collecting achievements that have made her a top student in northern California. She is currently thriving in three Advanced Placement (AP) classes at UHS, and she has always managed a heavy load of similar courses. She is also taking four community college courses at the same time to get a head start on her college career in subjects ranging from Psychology to Chemistry and Statistics. That’s not all, Estrada has a part-time job and volunteers with several local organizations where she completes community service each week.

When asked why she works so hard, Valeria responded, “My parents came here from Mexico before I was born, and they didn’t get the opportunity to have a great education like me. They came here so my brother and I could get an education and have better opportunities. I want to make them proud!”

Along the way, many have inspired and helped Ms. Estrada be successful. She shared that UHS Spanish Teacher, Jorge Caratachea, opened her eyes to the educational and career possibilities that were available to her. He inspired her to look into attending a 4-year college.

Extremely interested in Science, Valeria plans to major in Biology and Minor in Psychology when she attends college. Her primary goal is to attend medical school and eventually practice as an OB/GYN physician. So far, she has been accepted to Stanislaus State University in Turlock, CA, but she has applied to many more like UC Merced and Sacramento State. “We’ll see,” she said.

According to Beth Kirkley, UUSD Director of Migrant Education, “Valeria is a shining example of what we want all of our students to achieve. She has risen from challenging circumstances to be recognized at a very high level. Her hard work and sacrifices are now paying off. I know she will be a superb physician, or whatever else she chooses to do with her life. I am extremely proud of her and our Migrant Education program.” 

In the fall of each year, Migrant Education staff around California submit nominations for seniors that they believe are candidates for Student of the Year. The nomination is a simple paragraph outlining the student’s accomplishments. After the applications are submitted, each area forms a committee that chooses one student per area as their winner. The three students, one from each area, are then interviewed by another committee that picks the winner for each region. 

Valeria beat out all the other migrant students from Region 2 to win the award, including students from Mendocino, Lake, Sonoma, and Napa counties. As the winner, she will attend the Parent State Conference, where she will be recognized with this prestigious award on March 6-8, 2020. There she competes with students from all around the state for California Migrant Education Student of the Year.

Valeria has some advice for other Migrant Education students too, “Take advantage of all the opportunities you’re given. I feel that at times, you don’t realize how important some opportunities are until years later when you are filling out an application for a college or a job. Keep pushing through, and keep encouraging yourself to take difficult classes. Go for it!”