While some students may use economic hardship as an excuse not to excel, for Lysandra Gonzalez it became an impetus to succeed.
The Riverside High School senior has maintained a cumulative 3.8 GPA, is a three-sport athlete and holds down a part-time job.
“I’ve lived in poverty. My mom’s a single mom. But poverty is a motivator for me,” she said.
She admitted it’s sometimes been a struggle to fit work, school and sports into her packed schedule.
“You do have to stay up late sometimes,” said Gonzalez. “I used my lunchtime to do homework. You have to be willing to put in the time.”
And she hasn’t been satisfied with doing the bare minimum.
“Lysandra challenges herself, taking the hardest classes we have to offer,” said Riverside teacher Sheila Messick. “She doesn’t let anything get in her way from succeeding in school. Her mindset is that she wants a better life.”
The fact that she’s in Honor Society speaks volumes about her discipline.
“Typically, less than five percent of our students are in Honor Society,” Messick explained. “Lysandra is very focused and doesn’t make excuses.”
Gonzalez is Messick’s teacher’s aide, so Messick has had ample opportunity to witness her student’s work ethic in action.
“She’s so organized and helpful. She can work with anyone, in any group. She knows when to take the lead and how to let someone else take the lead.”
Gonzalez credits sports for helping her come out of her shell. Basketball is her favorite sport, and she played for Riverside all four years. In addition, this year she was captain of the volleyball team.
“I used to by shy, but sports got me social,” she said. “I love PE! My teacher used to let me play with the boys, because the other girls didn’t want to.”
With her love of athletics, it’s no surprise that Gonzalez is fascinated by what fuels the human body. She’s been accepted at Whitworth University and hopes to become a dietician or nutritionist.
“I love learning about the food I’m eating,” she said.
She excels in science and math and believes this course of study is made for her – she’s grateful for the scholarships she’s been awarded.
“Education is super important. Every year counts and homework’s not that bad.”
Gonzalez also appreciates the opportunity to attend a smaller high school like Riverside, because she feels she’s been able to get to know her teachers better and vice versa.
For example, during a windstorm, one of her teachers came to her home to check on her and her family. Several trees had fallen near and on their home.
“Mr. Wood came out and offered to help us,” she said. “I’m going to miss my teachers. They are so inspirational.”
The feeling is mutual.
Messick described Gonzalez as kind and likeable.
“She will be missed,” she said.
Gonzalez knows she’s not the only teen to have struggled with poverty, and has this to say to students facing similar situations:
“Being poor isn’t so bad – you’ll get through it. Work for what you want and you’ll get it.”
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