• Natalia Kwon

    Solid goals and hard work paying off for Socorro Early College student

    The Socorro Independent School District selects an outstanding student to recite the Pledge of Allegiance at the monthly Board of Trustees regular meeting. Students chosen for this honor seize the endless opportunities SISD provides to help them excel in the classroom and beyond. Here is how one student is seizing her opportunities in Team SISD.

    For Socorro High School senior Natalia Kwon, embracing opportunities to accelerate her college education and career goals empowered her to take charge of her future. When Natalia was a student at Salvador H. Sanchez Middle School, the future surgical oncologist was sure of two things: she wanted to become a doctor and earn her college degree before graduating high school.

    Determined to make her dreams reality, Natalia joined Socorro Early College (SEC) and the Health Professions Academy (HPA) her freshman year.

    “I was lucky to get into both programs,” said Natalia, who is on track to graduate in the top six percent of her high school class in June. As such, she was awarded automatic acceptance to The University of Texas at Austin this fall. “It’s overwhelming sometimes, but hard work pays off. But a bigger reason is I wanted to make my parents proud, too.”

    To commemorate her success, Natalia was recognized and recited the Pledge of Allegiance at the SISD Board of Trustees regular meeting in January.

    SEC is one of seven early college high schools in the Socorro Independent School District that enables students to earn a high school diploma and an associate degree at no cost from El Paso Community College or least 60 hours of college credit toward a bachelor's degree.

    In December, Natalia took her first step toward a successful college career. She crossed the stage at the Don Haskins Center to receive her associate degree in multidisciplinary studies at EPCC’s graduation ceremony. She also became her family’s first college graduate.

    “It’s a great opportunity,” Natalia said. “Even if you don’t graduate with your associate’s, you still gain experience and financial support throughout college and high school. But you also get to work with a lot of great teachers and counselors. The counselors here are very helpful, and they make it less overwhelming for you.”

    The early college program was only one of the many SISD opportunities that Natalia benefited from to help her prepare successfully for her college and career goals. 

    In HPA, Natalia, whose grandfather died from cancer when she was in fourth grade, learned that she could combine her interest in surgery and cancer medicine for a future career as a surgical oncologist. The academy, which prepares students for health care careers, also allowed her to pursue her pharmacy technician certification.

    In Socorro High School's new top-notch pharmacy lab, Natalia participated in hands-on simulation experiences, which helped to prepare her for her pharmacy rotation at Walgreens. Natalia hopes to pass her certification exam this spring and work as a pharmacy technician to help pay for college.

    Patty Sierra Wilson, a health sciences teacher at Socorro, has seen Natalia excel since her first year in the academy. She praised Natalia's commitment and dedication to her studies.

    "She's a good example to all her peers," Wilson said. 

    Despite the SEC's rigorous curriculum, Natalia also has indulged her artistic side drawing black and white portraits and colorful images of the human brain in the Socorro High School Gifted and Talented (GT) program.

    "Drawing is my hobby and it’s therapeutic," Natalia said with a laugh. "It helps me relax." 

    Ector M. Martell, GT program coordinator and anatomy and physiology teacher, said he encourages students like Natalia to use art to illustrate their understanding of how the human body works. He said Natalia's art projects have helped her step out of her comfort zone and explore new ideas to increase her understanding of the science content. He is confident that she will succeed in whatever path she takes.

    "Natalia is just a great student," Martell said. "She has a lot of goals and a lot of drive, and I think she's going to be successful no matter where she ends up."    

    Published January 17, 2023