Carlmont High School's Katherine Necochea, holding a can, volunteers at Second Harvest Food Bank in San Carlos.
Despite the challenges of learning a new language and adapting to the United States’ culture, one Carlmont High School graduate is graduating with straight A’s Friday and is heading to University of California at Berkeley where almost her entire four years of college are financed.
Katherine Necochea, 17, first moved from Lima, Peru, at the age of 7 and didn’t know any English at the time, only speaking Spanish.
“My mom always told me education was the key to having more opportunities,” she said. “She was there 24 hours a day by my side. Since there was a language barrier, I had to find out things by myself, but she was always there for me.”
She and her mother came to the United States together to meet her father, who was already in the country. Necochea came on a tourist visa and decided to stay.
“It was challenging trying to speak,” said Necochea, who moved to Santa Clara before settling in Redwood Shores. “Being in this area, surrounded with people who mostly spoke English only, it helped me a lot. I was encouraged as well by my teachers.”
Hard work has also led to her getting different scholarships that pretty much cover the costs of school for all four years. She applied to all the scholarships, which include the Incentive Awards Program from Berkeley for four years, Pursuit of Excellence Scholarship and the Kelly Kolozsi Scholarship.
In high school, she got involved in activities and was able to maintain a 4.0 GPA, while also taking seven Advanced Placement classes and working 15 hours a week in an accounting firm after school. For the past two summers, she attended summer programs she applied for at nearby colleges. In 2012, she attended the COSMOS program at University of California at Santa Cruz for a month and studied marine biology. In 2013, she attended the Accounting Career Awareness Program at the University of California at Berkeley for one week and learned about finance, accounting and marketing. She plans to major in business finance.
“[I was able to get straight A’s by] just being focused since ninth-grade knowing what I wanted to do to continue working hard and know my goals,” she said. “Berkeley was my dream school. I thought ‘wow this is going to be tough.’”
She chose Cal, which is ranked as the 20th best college nationally by U.S. News & World Report, because it has a really well-known program for business. She said she visits the school a lot and loves the campus.
Aside from the language, the new culture in the United States and academic style were challenges for Necochea.
“I had to learn about policies and strategies to go to college,” she said. “I’m the first one in the family to go to college.”
In addition to attending the summer programs, Necochea was active in the volunteer group Key Club International for all four years of high school and also was part of the Latinos Unidos club. She also participated in AVID Club support class.
“It’s (AVID) that really helped me throughout high school,” she said. “It’s supported me and guided me. … Carlmont has so much to offer. … It was a great experience throughout.”
Necochea said she will miss the teachers she got really close to at Carlmont and friends who are going off to different colleges.
She hasn’t been back to Peru in 10 years and hopes to go back in summer, but she’s not sure if it will happen since she plans on taking two courses at Berkeley this summer to get ahead of the game.
“I’m looking forward to meeting new people and having the experience of college in general,” she said. “And figure out what I want to do in my future.”
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