Taking their studies seriously propelled Nataly Sotelo and Tamara Arenivas to the top two spots at the early college high school Odessa Collegiate Academy.
Formerly on the University of Texas Permian Basin campus as Falcon Early College High School, it was moved to the Odessa College campus. It offers students a chance to earn college credit and/or associate degrees while they are still in high school.
OCA’s commencement is scheduled for 6 p.m. May 21 at the OC Sports Center.
Sotelo, 18, plans to attend UTPB to earn a bachelor’s degree in biology to become a physician assistant with the ultimate goal of becoming a doctor.
“I’ve always had a leaning towards the medical field and I’ve been through a couple of careers. I really wanted to become a physician, but I plan to start off as a physician assistant and maybe in the future go to med school to become a physician,” Sotelo said.
Odessa Collegiate sounded like somewhere Sotelo wanted to go when a presentation was made at her middle school.
“… I really liked the atmosphere that they spoke about; how we would have like smaller classes. I really (liked) the idea of taking college classes and just getting ahead in my career, especially since I wanted to go into the medical field, so I knew that would get me ahead,” Sotelo said.
Sotelo will also graduate with an associate degree from OC in general studies.
She said she didn’t realize she would be graduating with an associate degree until recently.
“I was like, wow, the OC graduation is actually before high school (graduation). I think that’s really crazy and … a really good accomplishment,” Sotelo added.
Having earned a two-year degree, she said, will make it easier and faster to go through the university.
“… It really gave all of us experience in knowing what college is like, how the professors are and how college classes go, so I think we’re going to be really prepared …,” Sotelo said.
Earning valedictorian status shocked her, she said.
“I was super surprised and excited when I found out,” Sotelo said.
Among the top five or top three, she said, there was competition to see who would be valedictorian and salutatorian, but they didn’t know.
“… It could be anyone, so it was a lot of attention, I guess. And then whenever they announced that, it was … a surprise,” Sotelo said.
She has two younger sisters.
“I’m the oldest. My parents are always saying they’ve got big shoes to fill,” Sotelo said.
In high school, she was part of Phi Theta Kappa, which is an Honor Society. Sotelo also is part of Student Council, the National Honor Society, on an AVID action team and an officer in Academic Decathlon.
AVID stands for Advancement Via Individual Determination.
Sotelo said she is excited and nervous about going to college in the fall.
“It’s really like we’ve been in college here, but it’s going to be really different, just going out on our own and not having the high school to fall back on,” she added.
Arenivas, 18, is the Odessa Collegiate salutatorian. She plans to attend UTPB and study criminal justice to become a forensic science technician.
“I’ve always known that I wanted to go into law, or into criminal justice, but recently I’ve taken a forensic science class and I feel like that sparked the interest,” Arenivas said.
“I feel like it’s an honor and I’m very grateful for this opportunity,” Arenivas said of achieving the salutatorian designation.
She added that she feels this is the result of the hard work that she’s put into her education.
There wasn’t any competition between her and Sotelo.
“I would say (from) my perspective, I didn’t really see it as much as a competition. I was really surprised that I was the second person, just because I was more focused on doing my best on every assignment. So when it came to ranks and stuff, it was just kind of a surprise and I was able to see my hard work come (into) play,” Arenivas said.
She has two older sisters and an older brother. All of her siblings are going to, or are in, college.
Arenivas also will graduate from Odessa College with an associate degree in general studies before graduating from OCA. She will be graduating with one of her sisters from OC.
“I would say that graduating from Odessa College is really exciting because I know that I’m already a few steps towards earning a bachelor’s degree, and even starting this career. … And graduating from high school is also really exciting because it’s the page turner into a new chapter, and starting adulthood and going to university …,” Arenivas said.
She added that earning the college credits will make it easier to get through the university faster and be less expensive.
What appealed to Arenivas about OCA was the program.
“It was really new and I wasn’t really sure what I was getting myself into at first, but I was willing to take on the challenge. I wanted to try something different and the school really spoke to me,” she said.
Arenivas is in the National Honor Society, is secretary of student council, earning Texas Scholar hours and was in the Academic Decathlon as an alternate for this year’s competition.