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San Pasqual senior bound for Harvard University

May 26, 2001|By LAURA MACKENZIE, Staff Writer

WINTERHAVEN — She is no shrinking violet.

Luz Isabel Gonzalez is more like a hardy desert flower, blooming despite harsh surroundings.

Luz, a 17-year-old senior at San Pasqual High School here, is headed from the quiet desert nights to the bright lights of Cambridge, Mass., and Harvard University.

The youngest of three children of Miguel and Socorro Gonzalez, Luz has been accepted to the Ivy League school for fall 2001 and recently visited the campus with her parents.

She proudly showed photos of her trip to Harvard, happily chattering about her experience all the while.

"I want to try that," she said, pointing to group of rowers on the Charles River in one photo. "Not for the school, just for fun."


She originally wanted to go to the University of Arizona to stay close to home, but applied to Harvard at the urging of an associate of her boss who had earned his law degree from Harvard.

"He really pushed me to apply and go to Harvard," said Luz.

While she has almost a full ride from scholarships and grants — "I didn't want to do any loans," she says — Luz almost missed her chance to attend the prestigious school.

Her acceptance packet from the school was never delivered to her house and she barely made the school's deadline to accept.

On the last day to respond, her parents called to see if Luz had been accepted.

While she will have to do a work study to help pay for the $36,000-a-year cost, Luz is confident she won't be scrubbing toilets to pay her way.

"I want to apply in the library in the circulation department. Then I can do my homework and get to know their library system," said Luz, who won't know if she will get the position until the fall.

Although she hasn't decided on a major (her choices range from public policy, government and economics to environmental science), she knows she wants to stay long enough to get a master's of business administration degree.

She has an overall grade- point average of 4.0, is class valedictorian, senior class president and a three-year track and field athlete.

She has been prom queen, Cinco de Mayo queen and Miss Imperial County in the Miss Teen California competition.

Luz attended Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., last summer for a leadership course after returning from a trip to Germany with the Yuma Youth Leadership's "sister city" trip.

"That really helped me get into Harvard," said Luz of the course she took at Northwestern.

She mentioned that some of the friends she made at the Northwestern course will be attending Harvard in the fall.

The district's middle and high school counselor, Carson Bench, is impressed with Luz.

"She's a delightful individual to know. She's friendly, she's honest and she's industrious. She gets along well with her teachers and fellow students," said Bench.

He continued, "She's polite, respectful and obviously pursues challenges."

He said Luz is the first student ever from San Pasqual High to earn a Golden State diploma.

The Golden State diploma is based on passing at least six Golden State Exams; Luz has passed eight.

"The next highest person in the school passed three. … She's definitely distanced herself academically," said Bench of Luz.

He hopes to have the Golden State diploma from the state to present to her on graduation night.

Bench has known Luz since she was in the sixth grade. He said Harvard is going to find her "somebody who is energetic, enthusiastic … and who has the personal skills to deal with it."

San Pasqual High Principal Roger Renfro speaks highly of Luz.

"She's not only a good student, she's a leader and she's very mature for her age," said Renfro, who has known Luz and her family for 10 years.

He noted her family has been "very, very supportive" of her and "very involved with the school," to which he credits Luz's academic success.

"All three of the Gonzalez children have been raised with the concept of education is primary," he said.

Renfro added, "I can't say enough about her. Harvard is really going to gain a fine young lady."

Since she took most of her required senior year classes a junior, Luz attends school in the mornings and works afternoons at the office of attorney Vida Flores.

Luz is the interpreter, secretary and legal assistant to Flores and is in charge of all misdemeanor cases.

But she has no interest in law.

"No," she said with a laugh when asked if that might be a direction she would pursue.

"It's interesting. You meet a lot of people," she conceded, but quickly added she is not interested in a legal career.

She has plans of owning the Gandalfo Theater when the current owner's lease is up and has already informed him of her intentions.

She became interested in the historic theater when, at the request of her economics teacher's son, she began doing historical research on it.

Since last summer, Luz has been researching the genealogy tree of the theater's original owner and is doing a timeline on the theater.

"It's been a theater, a USO during the war, so many different things," she enthused.

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