Amy Orozco, Pioneer High School’s class Valedictorian, and Lucero Vasquez, Pioneer’s Salutatorian, recently received special honors from Whittier Union’s Board of Trustees for their academic achievements.
For Vazquez and Orozco, life has been filled with many challenges, but these young women have faced their difficulties with strength and determination and have come out on top.
Both students have GPA’s over 4.0 and took Honors and Advanced Placement courses throughout high school. The similarities do not end there. Vazquez and Orozco both served on the Associated Student Body and volunteered their time to perform community service.
Orozco participated in cross country, track and field, soccer, S-Club, Leo Club, Debate Club, Club Literario and Link Crew. She also participated in Girls State and the National Hispanic Youth Initiative. Orozco will be the first in her family to attend college and she will begin UC Berkeley in the fall.
Pioneer Activities Director Gilbert Castaneda Jr. said Orozco has remarkably high standards.
“She is always attentive and on top of her studies,” he said. “She is like a Latina ‘Rosie the Riveter’ because she is a model of strength, hard work and pride.”
Orozco said track and cross-country played a major role in motivating her to excel in her sport and in academics. She was captain of the cross-country team and was named student athlete of the year for having the highest GPA for her team.
“Running has helped shape me into who I am today; a hardworking, ambitious Latina who perseveres through obstacles,” Orozco said. “I know how to prioritize and balance my time while keeping physically fit. Running and building camaraderie within teams is who I am and will continue to be.”
Vasquez participated in Link Crew, soccer, cross country, and S-Club. She volunteered her time through Gear Up beach clean-ups, as a Life Teen assistant at her church, a peer assistant tutor at Pioneer and at local elementary and middle schools.
AP Spanish Literature teacher Marlene Mendoza-Chacon said that Vasquez was one of her best AP students.
“She was always on time and prepared, mature and responsible,” Mendoza-Chacon said. “She is the type of student I will always remember.”
Lucero is one of five children and is the first in her family not only to go to college, but also to graduate from high school. Lucero will attend UC Irvine and major in Biological Sciences.
For both Vasquez and Orozco, family struggles with health and finances have tested them, but made them stronger in the long run. Both also said they are fortunate to have exceptional parents who raised them with strong values and the support and encouragement they needed to help them build better lives for themselves.
“Challenges in life have expanded my world because they have forced me to get back on my feet and attempt more than I believed was possible,” Vazquez said. “I have learned from my mistakes and I’m committed to becoming the best I can be for myself and for my family.”
The young women credited their teachers at Pioneer for providing them with the academic preparation to tackle college.
“Pioneer has been a great school with an open-minded atmosphere where I have been surrounded by great people and a friendly learning environment,” Vazquez said. “Pioneer’s teachers offer lots and lots of help, tutoring, patience, and the will to see students strive and succeed.”