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June 18, 2021

Gilroy’s Class of 2021: Senior Spotlights

Selecting students for the Gilroy Dispatch’s annual senior spotlight honor is no enviable task. That’s why we make the principals, school counselors and staff sort it out. These students have navigated the labyrinth of high school hurdles, and we are inspired by their optimistic outlook, refreshing attitudes and heartfelt honesty. We celebrate them, their families, their mentors and all the graduating seniors in the Class of 2021.

Gilroy High School: Rodrigo Galindo

What are your plans after high school?

After school I plan on attending Princeton University to major in art and mathematics

What is one of your fondest memories from high school?

My fondest memory was walking alongside my friends during passing period and talking.

Who was your favorite high school teacher and why?

Mrs. Vu was my favorite high school teacher, she embraced our Gen-Z humor and was not afraid to show her humorous personality.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

In five years I see myself probably looking for a job with my new degree, or becoming a freelance artist.

If you could leave one piece of advice for an incoming freshman, what would it be?

My advice to freshmen would be to take advantage of your education, it will greatly benefit you.  Also don’t sell yourself short, when the time comes, apply to “reach” universities, you might be just what they are looking for. 

Gilroy High School: Nathanael Gorelik

What are your plans after high school?

I plan on attending California Baptist University down in Riverside, Calif. I plan on majoring in architecture, a five-year program. 

What is one of your fondest memories from high school?

One of my best and funniest memories from high school was starting Monkey Club with my friends. It started as a joke and was never a legitimate club but it eventually got really popular!   

Who was your favorite high school teacher and why?

My favorite high school teacher was Ms. Lee. I took Honors Biology, Biotechnology 1 and AP Physics with her. Throughout these four years she has been truly supportive and helped shape me to become the person I am today.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

In five years, I see myself working in the architecture firm Bjarke Ingels Group in Denmark. I have always had a passion to travel around the world and I think moving to Europe would kickstart this passion. 

If you could leave one piece of advice for an incoming freshman, what would it be?

One piece of advice I would give to incoming freshmen is to never be satisfied with comfortable situations. Try to always push your boundaries and expand your skills. At times, I wish I did this more, but I have learned from my mistakes and hope to use this knowledge in college.

Gilroy High School: Audrey Kaefer

What are your plans after high school?

After high school I will be heading to UC Berkeley in the fall. I’ll be majoring in bioengineering.

What is one of your fondest memories from high school?

Being part of the marching band was one of my favorite memories of GHS. I loved playing during football games because we would get everyone hyped. I also enjoyed being part of the BSA program. I got to dissect a sheep heart, make cheese and grow green onions. It helped me figure out that I wanted to go into the biotech field after high school. 

Who was your favorite high school teacher and why?

My favorite teacher at GHS was my sophomore math teacher, Ms. Pham. She always made me smile and laugh even when learning about parabolas. She encouraged me to try new activities and helped me grow in confidence. 

Where do you see yourself in five years?

In five years I hope to have graduated from college and be working in the biotech field. 

If you could leave one piece of advice for an incoming freshman, what would it be?

I would advise freshmen to enjoy high school as much as they can. Make friends, have a social life and try new things. Don’t be afraid to join clubs to see if any spark an interest.

Dr. TJ Owens Gilroy Early College Academy: Claire Huang

What are your plans after high school?

I plan on pursuing a B.S. in Computer Engineering. During my college years, I hope to do research on Natural Language Understanding (NLU), the science behind Siri and Alexa, under a professor as an undergraduate. I also still want to keep making music and playing golf when I have time.

What is one of your fondest memories from high school?

In my junior year, I volunteered to lead an effort to paint a mural for GECA’s Winter Formal. So many of my friends came to help out, staying after school with me, and we blasted music and painted away. With so many helping hands, the mural came together quickly, and I was so happy seeing the finished painting at the dance.

Who was your favorite high school teacher and why?

Ms. Bruce, my APLaC and Senior Project teacher, created a class that became a dependable anchor for me during my last two years of high school. Her style of feedback, especially when talking one on one, really allowed me to grow as a writer.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

In five years, I want to have learned technical skills for neural networks and machine learning. My greatest ambition is to start a company with some friends on something we are all passionate about. If that doesn’t happen, I’ll be looking for a project using NLU to continue to grow in that field.  

If you could leave one piece of advice for an incoming freshman, what would it be?

Try your best. Not to the point of breakdown, but to your limits. I hope that future incoming freshmen can learn that in this way, even if things don’t go well, you know that you did your best, and you will have fewer regrets.

Dr. TJ Owens Gilroy Early College Academy: Elizabeth Sanchez

What are your plans after high school?

It has been my lifelong dream to attend a four-year university right after high school. I plan on getting a bachelor’s degree in Child and Adolescent Development at San Jose State University and become an elementary teacher.

What is one of your fondest memories from high school?

My fondest memories from G.E.C.A. was definitely our school field trips. Although I liked all of the field trips I went to, the UC Berkeley trip was definitely the best school field trip. It was Aug. 9, 2017, the day of the field trip, which for me was the third day of my first year in high school. This field trip was where I made so many memorable memories, reconnected with old friends, and had the honor to make new lifelong friends. 

Who was your favorite high school teacher and why?

My favorite high school teacher was definitely Mr. Cerny. I remember since the first day I attended his class he did such a remarkable job at not only being a teacher but being someone you can always talk to. During that time in my life, I was contemplating what I was going to do after high school. “Am I going to attend a four-year university or just go to a community college? Would I even be a good teacher in the future?” These were questions that I would constantly ask myself. However, seeing how amazing Mr. Cerny was at educating his students and at the same time showing empathy for us and making sure we were all doing well is what made me believe more in myself. I kept reminding myself if I could just be a little like Mr. Cerny when I am older, I know I would be an amazing teacher. At times it seems as if teachers are just there to teach and nothing else. However, that was not the case with Mr. Cerny as well as with all of the other G.E.C.A. teachers and staff members. They always did an amazing job at caring for all of their students. 

If you could leave one piece of advice for an incoming freshman, what would it be?

One piece of advice I have for incoming freshmen is to live in the present and do not worry about the future and what it holds. I remember always wondering about how my life will be in the future and forgetting to live in the present. So just live in the present whether it means going to every school party/event or just hanging out with friends and family. We all know that life is hard and that school can be tough, but you need to remember to focus on yourself. Before you know it high school is now over and you now have to face adult life head-on.

Mt. Madonna High School: Perla Valdivia Ayvar

Perla Valdivia Ayvar is a graduating senior at Mt. Madonna High School. She is part of the class of 2021. She attended Gilroy High School before transferring to Mt. Madonna. She always knew she needed to focus on her studies to earn her high school diploma. However, as true for any individual, life gets in the way. 

What is unique about Perla is her determination to make her dream a reality. While working to support her family, Perla reengaged in school and found herself a new direction. She was persistent, focused and fully committed to her studies. 

Her senior year of high school during the pandemic proved to only strengthen Perla’s drive to succeed. She graduated early and earned her diploma. In addition, she took her newfound determination further and applied to Gavilan College and earned scholarships from the Gilroy Foundation.

What are your plans after high school?

My plans after high school are to attend Gavilan College for two years and then transfer to a four-year university where I will study the field of science and medicine. 

What is one of your fondest memories from high school?

One of my fondest memories in high school was when I was awarded a scholarship because it made me feel like all my hard work was finally paying off. 

Who was your favorite high school teacher and why?

I had four favorite teachers during high school. They were Mrs. Perry-Perez, Mr. Ward, Mr. Vevoda and Mr. Gemar. These four teachers helped me with school work, scholarships and with anything else I needed. They helped me succeed and graduate on time. I am very happy I got to work with them. 

Where do you see yourself in five years?

In five years, I see myself being accepted into the university of my dreams and accomplishing the goals I have set for myself to start my career.

If you could leave one piece of advice for an incoming freshman, what would it be?

One piece of advice I would give an incoming freshman would be to always follow your instincts and never give up on yourself no matter how hard things get. Hard work always pays off.

Christopher High School: Brett and Scott Archer

Scott (left) and Brett Archer are heading to Gavilan College in the fall. Photo: Erik Chalhoub

Twin brothers Brett and Scott Archer have been attending the same schools since kindergarten, and that will continue at Gavilan College, with both intending to pursue business-oriented degrees and later transferring to a university.

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