CARLSBAD — A trio of graduates are leaving their mark at Sage Creek High School.
One is the first ever in her family to graduate high school, let alone attend college, then there’s the valedictorian and student who graduated in three years.
Giselle Oritz, 18, is a worker, inside and outside of the classroom. On June 14, she walked with her class becoming the first person in her family to earn a high school diploma.
She said he had no mentors and didn’t know, or understand, the path to avoid dropping out past her freshman year. So, she taught herself, but had an assist through the Advancement Via Independent Determination, or AVID, program, a nonprofit providing resources to at-risk students.
Ortiz said another challenge was she had few students she could relate with, given Sage Creek’s demographics.
“I wanted to make a change,” she explained. “My mom works three jobs and I have two brothers. I work full time in the summer.”
When school was in session, Ortiz worked 20 hours per week at McDonald’s, and she played softball for three years plus was active in a handful of clubs. When payday came, Oritz gave her check to help with bills and other necessities for her family.
But through AVID, she learned how to apply to college, apply for financial aid and search for scholarships. She will attend the University of California, Merced, which is about one hour south of Modesto. She will major in sociology aiming for a career as a forensic psychologist.
“I want to honor my mom’s sacrifices because I’ve seen how easily people with my culture can fall back into that stereotype,” Ortiz said. “I don’t want anyone to live that life because I know how hard it is.”
The next stop for Sage Creek’s valedictorian Brendan Drury, 18, is UCLA. Through four years, he earned a 4.51 GPA and passed 10 AP classes in the process, including AP biology one year early as a sophomore.
Going into his freshman year, Drury knew academics was his path. He mapped out his high school career, although he couldn’t plan for the unknown.
During his junior year, Drury, who previously ran track for the Bobcats, was stricken with pneumonia. He was hospitalized and then bed-ridden, which hardened his resolve, work ethic and taught him to be more self-reliant.
It was an anti-biotic resistant strain, finally being cured with an IV, and preventing him from exercising for two months. He also missed finals, as Sage Creek is on a trimester schedule, but made up the work and kept his academic standing.
Regardless, he aims to incorporate his self-driven mindset next year in Westwood. He is registered in the engineering department with an eye on computer science, although Drury is still unsure of his major.
“It’s a skill I had to develop, especially when I had pneumonia,” Drury said. “I thought it would ruin my school career. All that hard work made me better at prioritizing in getting things done. Having to make it up was a positive experience.”
The accent may throw people, but Danylo Drohobytsky was born in the U.S. His parents, though, emigrated from Ukraine, and speak Ukrainian in their home, passing the accent on to their son.
The 17-year-old is motivated, as evident by his early graduation. Drohobytsky took nine classes this year to graduate one year early, because his curious mind can’t wait to get into University of California, San Diego’s physics program.
His love of physics and robotics — he was the team captain for Sage Creek the last two years — began in middle school, and has since continued in high school and only grew during an internship at UCSD last summer. Like Ortiz, he also participated in a handful of clubs, mostly centered on science.
His internship at the research lab open his eyes to big, new world. Naturally, Sage Creek can’t compete at the level of UCSD, but Drohobytsky said the experience in high school only helped grow his passion.
At UCSD, he could envision his life and making a difference.
“Really seeing the opportunities presented to you at such a location is pretty mind-boggling,” Drohobytsky said of UCSD. “You’re having a real-world impact and have the resources to do so.”
Steve Puterski covers Carlsbad and Vista. For tips or story ideas, contact him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @StevePuterski.