VACAVILLE — When Acena Uribe stepped forward to accept her graduation diploma, she became the first member of her family to have graduated from high school, and she already had a specific plan for after graduation.
That is, packing her bags for Sonoma State University this fall to begin her career as a veterinarian.
“I want to be able to help animals get better, and it’s like helping people get better, too,” Uribe said, referring to the place that pets have in their human companions’ hearts.
The 17-year-old Vacaville native is the third-oldest of eight children in a family that, on her mother’s side, goes back at least two generations in Vacaville.
She attended Callison Elementary School and Vaca Pena Middle School before she came to Will C. Wood High School as “a very shy girl,” Uribe said. “College was never talked about in our family.”
During her freshman year, Uribe focused on schoolwork and during her sophomore year, she extended her school life to include softball, but injured her knee, which put her on the sidelines.
It was teacher Tracy Ruiz’s prompting that got her to join the Link Crew, the school’s leadership program that helps younger students transition to high school.
“It helped me be able to talk to other people,” Uribe said of her triumph over her shyness. “I enjoyed helping others (as part of the Link Crew) and we are like one big family.”
Her time working with the Link Crew at school allowed her to escape problems at home, which included financial problems, she said, and the Link Crew’s support helped her overcome what she described only as “a very personal problem” that brought down her finals at the end of her junior year.
“Everyone was there for me,” Uribe said.
It was also the time when she walked into the college adviser’s office. Karla Gonzalez helped start the gears in motion for Uribe’s path to college.
“She said, ‘I want to go to college’ and she was very persistent,” Gonzalez said, describing Uribe as a young woman with a large amount of maturity and independence. “She is amazing.”
Life got better when she moved in with her boyfriend’s parents, who live in Fairfield. Her boyfriend’s mother drove her to school every morning and picked her up afterwards. Her afterschool time is split between chores, schoolwork and her pastime, art.
Uribe remembered her teacher, Ruiz, pointing out that when Uribe started her senior year that the young student looked particularly happy.
“It went by so fast and it was my best year,” Uribe said.
Part of that is because Uribe worked in the school’s front office serving as a student receptionist, helping anyone who came into the office with a variety of needs.
“Sometimes it was hard because I would have to ask around (to get answers for the person needing help), but I loved it because I enjoy helping,” Uribe said.
Uribe has already lined up financial aid to help pay her college bills and is also setting up a job at Sonoma State University.
“I am excited and I am ready,” Uribe said of her future.
Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ithompsondr.