Seniors write different blueprints for future

Two of the top 10 seniors sit down with Paw Prints to discuss post-graduation plans.


Courtesy of Gerardo Rodriguez

Senior Gerardo Rodriguez was chosen by scholarship program QuestBridge to attend Northwestern University in the fall.

The four years that every student must endure in high school have a huge effect in the long run of their lives. This is the period of time that decides the foundations of their future, whether or not they will have the drive to be successful in life. To flourish throughout a student’s high school years is not an easy task.

However, there are individuals who take up the challenge and excel. These students dedicate their time and mind to school, resulting in remarkable grades and astonishing achievements that many of their peers attempt to match. One person in particular is salutatorian Isabel Wood.

Ever since Wood was little, she has been emboldened by her parents, both teachers, to pursue academic success. Her mother Paula Wood teaches AICE General Paper and AP English Literature at the school while her dad teaches mathematics at McFatter Technical. 

“[My parents] instilled in me that school is a top priority and that striving to be challenged academically while motivating yourself is important. I believe that both my parents being teachers is what pushed me to really try hard in school,” Wood said.

This jumpstart to education eventually gave Wood the potential to become salutatorian of her senior class. Despite taking many advanced placement classes, she knows “the class is very competitive, so [she felt] pressured to take dual enrollment classes and make sure to keep [her] GPA in check and increasing.”

One of Wood’s many incentives to thrive academically was the desire to become salutatorian and give the opening statement at her graduation.

“I have always wanted to speak at graduation, which has motivated me to achieve my current salutatorian status,” Wood said.

Outside of academics, Wood is just as accomplished. She is the founder and president of the Psychology Club at the school, which she started in her freshman year. Wood has also won a few vocal tournaments in debate and has shown great capacity in national tournaments.

“When I look at the club, I can feel accomplished and think that I started this and I’m really proud of it,” Wood said.

Throughout her academic journey, Wood has not been alone. She has been fortunate enough to be a part of the same group of friends since she transferred to Indian Ridge Middle School in seventh grade.

“Everybody was encouraging each other to focus on school and to be academically driven. I’ve managed to move my way up through middle school and high school with that same group of friends. Being with that group of friends, who are all taking the same AP classes as I am and in the same clubs as me has definitely motivated me,” Wood said.

Wood looked to her friends as a support group, leaning on them for moral support while she battled the grueling workload of AP classes. She makes sure to keep her social life intact, believing that such things are a necessity if one is to succeed in high school. Not only does this help her emotionally, but it improves her organization skills.

“I have used an agenda all four years of my high school career, I keep things noted on the calendar, and generally stay organized. That is what allows me to balance school, friends and all things in between,” Wood said.

The salutatorian is surrounded by people who push her to succeed while striving to succeed themselves. One of those individuals is Gerardo Rodriguez.

Rodriguez, like Wood, has many feats in debate, including success at national tournaments that are attended by a worldwide audience. Rodriguez also earned the national AP scholar, which is given when a student has scored a four or five on every AP exam they have taken.

At the base of Rodriguez’s success is a story of persistence and hope. Rodriguez is a first-generation American who’s academic motivation stems from his family’s unrelenting desire of his success despite their economic struggles.

“I come from a low income family, so being at the top of my class has been harder for me because I have to keep up with my chores at home that no one else can do, making sure my mom is okay since she works too hard and taking care of my brother at the same time while also keeping up with my studies and my extracurriculars. It’s just been a whole lot over these four years, and I’m just glad that I was able to do it and do it successfully,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez’s focus is on providing for his family, so he grinds to prosper academically. Rodriguez’s goals are supported by his family, clear by his mother’s decision not to let him have a job because she said this education will eventually pay off more than a job ever would.

Rodriguez considers his mother one of his biggest motivations, after she gave up everything to move to America for her son to have a better future. Rodriguez always has the goal in his mind that he would one day repay his mother for her repeated sacrifices.

“Sometimes, my mom isn’t able to help me with my academics, which can be hard, but I still strive and I still look to her for comfort and advice in my life,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez is not only backed by his family but also his group of friends who have acted as a pillar of support. Rodriguez has the privilege of falling back on his friends for help with academics and emotional troubles.

“I am just one person, and I don’t know everything that’s going on, I don’t know all the secrets or I don’t know all the things that I should be keeping up with. Having more people just allows you to have a bigger base of information,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez is just another example of a senior whose legacy will not only affect his future but the future of those around him. Although he has had help along the way, the success is his and his friends and family are proud to see that after four years of high school, he has paved his own path.

And as for me, I have decided to serve in the Coast Guard after I graduate. Serving could not only develop me physically and mentally, but personally as well. Throughout my life, I have held a hope of becoming a professional boxer, which I could still pursue since I would get the opportunity to box while serving. I come from a long line of fighters, so it is only natural that I fall into the same field as my predecessors.

My late mother served in the National Guard before I was born, which led me to desire serving for the military in some way. I even sport my mother’s National Guard wallet as my own in honor of her and her service.

High school has been a huge developmental step for my peers and I, and it is sad to see a phase of our lives pass us by so quickly. I remember the first day I came to school as a freshman like it was yesterday, and soon I will be living my last days here. My only wish is that our senior journeys have affected the juniors, sophomores and freshman of the school in a positive manner.