The path to Berkeley

Despite attending an LA high school known as a “dropout factory,” Luz Elena Gutierrez graduated as valedictorian and is going on to Berkeley.

From her older sister, Luz Elena learned not to wait — to push her way into the toughest classes, to demand the most engaging teachers, to compete for every academic honor. And not to leave her classmates behind.

. . . She chose her friends as carefully as she picked her courses: like-minded girls who met under the big tree on the quad for lunch and to discuss calculus, college applications and leads on financial aid.

It is no coincidence, she says, that all 10 of Fremont’s top seniors are girls. “At a school like this, guys get pressured to do a lot of things … gangs, drugs. Boys make fun of you if you do your work. Girls don’t have that kind of pressure.”

Both parents, immigrants from Mexico, work split shifts at a hospital laundry so one parent always is home. Neither speaks English. But they pushed their children to study. Luz’s older brother graduated from Cal State-Long Beach, her older sister, also a valedictorian, from UCLA.

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  1. I love hearing stories like this. Basically it says that kids can succeed in even the toughest situations. For another wonderful story about a kid who made it big from inner city Washington, D.C. you might consider reading Ron Suskind’s A Hope in the Unseen: An American Odysey from the Inner City to the Ivy League.

    Andy Pass