Melissa Barales-Lopez

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.

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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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