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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

CdA Charter Academy’s Zaragoza drawn to rigor, heading to USC for international relations

Marie Zaragoza is the notable graduate from Coeur d'Alene Charter Academy. (COURTESY / COURTESY)

All along Marie Zaragoza planned to be a doctor – until she sat down to write her college admissions essays.

“I just couldn’t write with passion about being a doctor,” said Zaragoza, valedictorian of this year’s senior class at Coeur d’Alene Charter Academy. “I listen a lot to National Public Radio, and it’s the stories I hear about world events that do stir my passions.”

And so, when she heads off to college this fall she plans to study international relations. Studious and thoughtful about such things, she said there are probably two possible paths for her – something in diplomacy, perhaps with the State Department, or a research-based analytical job.

Zaragoza has clear ideas about what interests her and is eager to pursue them. She transferred to Coeur d’Alene Charter Academy in sixth grade because the rigor of the school appealed to her and she was drawn to not just the learning opportunities but “the fact that they teach us here how to learn, helping us develop skills to apply to any area of learning.”

The daughter of Rho Zaragoza, an acupuncturist, and Jill Zaragoza, a registered nurse, she began studying violin at age 5 and plays in the school orchestra. Also involved in a variety of school activities, including drama and debate, she particularly enjoys being president of the Associated Student Body.

“I got involved with student government in elementary school, where we dealt with issues such as how ketchup should be dispensed,” Zaragoza said. “I like to know and call every student here by name, which I know you can do without being involved with the ASB, but when I ask for their opinions about things they’d like to see at school, I can help make that real.”

Among the things she has been involved with on that score are community-building activities such as movie nights, a talent show, a free skate night and a service project in which students have become pen pals with residents of assisted-living facilities in the area.

She has excelled in debate. She and a partner took first place in 2016 in the Idaho High School Activities Association statewide speech tournament in the dual interpretation category. She and her partner qualified to go to nationals in speech and debate this spring.

Outside of school she enjoys skiing with her family and is a volunteer with a private nonprofit providing recreational opportunities for children with special needs.

She is excited to head off to the University of Southern California this fall, where the focus on academics and research opportunities is particularly appealing to her. Acknowledging she hasn’t traveled much, she is eager to experience a new mix of people, experiences and perhaps different ways of thinking she might encounter there.

“Besides,” she said, “when I visited campus, I was probably the whitest person in our group – and I’m 50 percent Asian! I think this access to different groups and different cultures will be great.”