TONTITOWN — Not one to call attention to herself, Ceci Medrano could easily slip past you without being noticed. But she will tell you that her four years in high school have made such a difference in her life to change her trajectory.
Ceci Alejandra Medrano, 17, is the oldest of three siblings and the first in her family to graduate from high school. For Medrano, that means not taking this opportunity for granted.
After attending a public junior high school in Bentonville, Medrano’s parents, Germaine and Cecilia Pena, parishioners at Our Lady of Sorrows Parish in Springdale, decided to send her to Ozark Catholic Academy. Her guidance counselor, Payton Bryant, said she got to know Medrano initially during the pandemic when she was a homebound student with support related to vertigo. Bryant said she worked closely with her in coordinating classroom support when she came to OCA.
“Ceci was identified with basic reading and math calculation disabilities,” she said. “But in addition to her math and reading hurdles, Ceci is also bilingual, and this proved to be both a blessing and a curse. Ceci would tell me, ‘Sometimes I have to translate a test question to Spanish and then answer myself in Spanish, and then write the actual answer back in English. It’s confusing, but it works.’
Medrano said she appreciates the challenges her parents faced and the sacrifices they have made to make this a possibility for her.
“They are happy that I have been able to make my own path,” she said.
While Medrano sets her eyes on the future, she understands she would not be in the position she is today without help.
“My freshman year, it was difficult to make the transition from public to private school. I did not know anyone here, and it was a lot for me,” she said.
Looking back, Medrano said her confidence has improved through her involvement in class discussions, archery for four years, attending leadership trips, making new friends and deepening her faith.
Medrano’s plans after graduation are to pursue a business career, starting with an associate’s degree at Northwest Arkansas Community College in Bentonville and then transferring to the University of Arkansas. Medrano would like to be an accountant, a field she learned about helping in her family’s business.
“I have worked for several years as an assistant with my dad, helping with payroll and bookkeeping in his company,” Medrano said.
While she has learned a lot on the job, she said she knows a degree could help her in the future.
“Ozark Catholic Academy has shaped and prepared me in various ways and helping me to develop my personality and strengthen my faith,” she said. “I owe a lot of who I am today to OCA. I have learned a lot of skills, such as how to manage responsibilities and organize. My life now has organization since I am mindful of everything around me, and it has driven me to pursue a structured life. Finally, being responsible has allowed me to develop the ability to lead a successful life. Without it, I would find myself lost and unstable. I have developed and will continue to practice these two virtues throughout my life.”
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