Cabrillo High School is sending one of its graduates to Johns Hopkins University — on a full scholarship.

"I'm really excited for this next chapter in my schooling," Jesse Garcia, Cabrillo senior and soon-to-be college freshman, said. "It still seems unreal, but I'll be heading to Johns Hopkins in a couple months."

The 18-year-old has completed Cabrillo's engineering and design Pathways program with enough experience under his belt to continue his learning in Baltimore in the fall. The scholarship he earned is not only paying for his tuition, but with a combined total of about $75,000 a year, Garcia has the money to pay for his room and board, food and books.

"The amount of money is crazy, I still can't believe it," Garcia said. "With that I can dedicate all of my time to studying."

He added that he has spent the last four years in high school working for this moment. That included participating in a number of competitions and after school engineering and robotics tournaments. On lighter days he said that he leaves campus around 6 p.m. On heavier days, where he has large projects or finals, he'll be working on campus until 8 or 9 p.m. 

"Although I participated in many competitions, I didn't lead all of them," he said. "You have to know when to step up and be a leader, and also when it's your turn to listen and work. If you try to take the lead on too many things, you'll wear yourself thin."

And aside from three B's in his freshman year, Garcia said that he's maintained a 4.0 grade average. He'll graduate with honors with the rest of his Cabrillo class tomorrow, June 14. 

He credits his parents for his drive and work ethic, as well as the realistic expectations he sets for himself. His parents are immigrants from Mexico, and his dad works a physically demanding job in construction — and has always placed an emphasis on education, Garcia said.

"Whenever I see my dad's hands and how rough they are, what I want is to work for them so they don't have to work as hard as they get older," he said. "The work that I have been putting in, and will put in, is for them."

Garcia added that he has two older siblings at Long Beach Community College who have helped him keep his emphasis on his studies. His friends, who also happened to be his group mates in Cabrillo's engineering program, kept the schooling fun, he said.

"I'm friends with the people I work with, so in a way, while working with them, I'm also hanging out with them at the same time," he said. "When you enjoy the company of the people you're working with, everything is easier."

Karen Kim, Garcia's school counselor for the last four years, said that she's filled with pride for the soon-to-be college freshman.

"We are so proud of Jesse. He is an extraordinary leader who embraces challenges and empowers his teammates to persevere and support each other," Kim said. "Jesse inspires all of us to pursue greatness, by reminding us that through hard work and determination, all things are possible. This is just the beginning of an extremely bright future for this young man and it is an honor to be a part of his journey."

Despite his intense workload and dedicating most of his free time to his school work, Garcia said that he has no qualms with the amount of work he has put in so far, noting that he plans on working even harder as he pursues his higher education.

"Other people here do equal or more than I do," he said. "If they're not giving up, then why should I?"

For more information about Cabrillo High School's pathway programs, go to lbcabrillo.schoolloop.com.

Stephanie Stutzman can be reached at sstutzman@gazettes.com.

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