By Nassim Davila, Staff Intern
Matthew Vanegas—the prospective valedictorian of the Class of 2017—is planning for his future as his high school career draws to an accomplished close.
“High school has certainly been quite the experience,” he said.
Over the last 40 months, Vanegas has amassed an academic record with approximately 18 dual enrollment and AP classes under his belt. His friends and teachers say his exemplary work ethic, dedication and cognitive curiosity have gotten him to this point—a remarkable GPA of 5.2. And he isn’t stopping there.
“If I could describe Matthew in one word, it’d be ‘hard-working,’” Wady Valeriano—an academically competitive senior—stated about his friend, whom he had met in freshman year. “He just keeps on going.”
But despite his propensity for academic perfection, Vanegas didn’t strive to be valedictorian.
“The love of learning and just obtaining knowledge about the world that we exist in… That’s just what I want to do,” Vanegas said. “I want to learn about everything.”
The events in one’s childhood are typically crucial in determining the developmental path that individual takes. And for Vanegas, it was no different.
“Mom really stressed the whole intellectual creativity thing, and I guess that’s really helpful in the sense that it’s really how I’ve gotten here today,” Vanegas said. “I wasn’t given all the luxuries in life; my family had a low economic income and what not… As a result, I had a relatively simple upbringing.”
However, because of his academic merit, Vanegas is finding he has opportunities well beyond those he imagined.
“It’s really nice (to have opportunities), you know?” Vanegas said, grinning. “It allows me to have more ways to fulfill my passions.”
But there is such thing as too many options. With Vanegas’ extensive repertoire, “selecting” a future can potentially be overwhelming. Nonetheless, the process doesn’t disconcert him much.
“I don’t feel any apprehension about my future,” Vanegas said. “It’s more, like, indifference. Focus on the now. Work on the now. Do what you can now. That way, any apprehension or future uncertainty can be minimized.”
In college, Vanegas intends to major in either international relations, international business/law, a type of engineering (either mechanical or aeronautical) or computer science.
“I’m a STEM guy,” he said. “I like math. It’s what I’m interested in.”
Mr. Holley, Vanegas’ computer science teacher of two years, vouches for Vanegas’ academic excellence and enthusiasm.
“Matthew is extremely talented,” he said. “And he’s really good with computers.”
However, in spite of Vanegas’ generally unwavering confidence concerning his scholastic prospects, he does have an outstanding regret: spending too little time pursuing his own interests.
“This might sound ridiculous coming from the valedictorian, but I regret spending so much time on academics,” Vanegas said. “If I were to have a choice to redo (high school), I’d do academics, but I’d also kind of do my own things, like learning about cybersecurity.”
Furthermore, although Vanegas does not have any immediate apprehension, he has one long-term concern that has affected him psychologically.
“The biggest fear that I have is not living a fulfilled life,” Vanegas said. “I just think living an unfulfilled life is the worst thing about life itself.”
Having endured the last three years from his perspective, Matthew Vanegas has some advice to give to all seniors.
“Enjoy high school while it lasts,” he recommends. “Reality is crushing.”