WATSONVILLE — When she was 13, Rosario Mendez Torres immigrated to the U.S. with her father and two siblings. Her mother stayed behind in Oaxaca, Mexico.
Still learning English and navigating her way through a new culture, Rosario is now a freshman at Pajaro Valley High School.
But her transition was difficult. Rosario was bullied for her rural upbringing in middle school, which at its best can be a trying time. But she never allowed that to bother her.
“I’m proud of the place where I started my life,” she said.
Rosario is taking AP Spanish, and will likely take other advanced placement classes, once she gets a better grasp of English, said her counselor Ramiro Medrano.
She is also president of the school’s gardening club.
But that’s not all. Rosario recently earned a name for herself at her school, taking first and third places during the Migrant Regional Speech & Debate Tournament, which ran from May 4-5 in Ventura.
To win her awards, Rosario was given a list of possible topics, and 10 minutes in which to collect her thoughts, write the speech and prepare to deliver it.
Her topic questions – ‘should teachers wear formal clothes to work,’ ‘should churches lose their tax-exempt status,’ and ‘are voter ID laws a tool of oppression,’ earned her accolades in the Spanish extemporaneous speech and Spanish prepared speech categories.
She also won the Dr. Joe I. Mendoza Award for Excellence in Forensics from the California Migrant Program.
“I was nervous,” she said of giving the speeches. “But I also felt comfortable and good.”
Asked by this reporter if she wanted to say anything else for the story, Rosario quickly obliged.
“It doesn’t matter where you come from,” she said. “It doesn’t matter what you look like. If you want to do something you should try your hardest and do it. Show people you have a lot to offer. You can do anything you set your mind to.”
Many people will help you, Rosario advised, while others will want to see you fail.
“You have to fight for what you want to do,” she said.