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Melissa Barales-Lopez delivers the valedictory address at Dartmouth College.
East Los Angeles -- Garfield High School graduate Melissa Barales-Lopez left East Los Angeles four years ago with doubts and fear as she headed to New Hampshire to enroll in her freshman year at Dartmouth College.
But earlier this month, a confident Barales-Lopez not only graduated from the Ivy League college, she earned a 4.0 cumulative GPA and delivered the valedictory address during commencement.
“As a first-generation college student, I wasn’t sure what to expect,’’ said Barales-Lopez in the speech she delivered on June 12 in New Hampshire. “I didn’t know what going to college meant. I was afraid that I was under-prepared, and I questioned whether I even deserved a spot at an Ivy League school.”
Participation in the First-Year Student Enrichment Program and the College’s First-Generation Office, along with other programs, washed Barales-Lopez’s doubts and fears.
“Four years later, however, with the support of friends, family, and faculty, I walk on this stage confident and with a profound sense of belonging,” she said during her speech.
Barales-Lopez majored in government and Spanish, minored in Latin American, Latino, and Caribbean Studies and plans on attending law school. Her 4.0 cumulative grade point average made her one of 13 valedictorians.
She urged classmates to move forward confidently to the next phase of their lives.
“(L)et’s do so with our heads held high and with utter confidence in our abilities and what we bring to the table. I’m excited to see all that we accomplish.”
In other school news ...
• Eagle Rock High alum Alyssa Arbolante received a special honor this month when she graduated with a master's in public health from UCLA's Fielding School of Public Health. Arbolante was named a Lester Breslow Impact Award Fellow, which includes a stipend, for her work studying the question of racism as a public health issue.
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Monica Rodriguez is a freelance writer. She has more than two decades of experience in daily journalism working for news publications in Pennsylvania and California. She is a product of Boyle Heights and continues to call the community home.
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