It didn’t take long for Ibeth Guerrero Gonzalezpico to finish high school.
The Pierson High School senior, who just turned 17 on Wednesday, is graduating three years after entering the school as a freshman.
“My sophomore year, by the second semester, they told me I already was a junior and I could graduate the next year,” she said. “I was like, ‘Great!’ Because I’m a really quick worker, I’m a quick learner.”
She didn’t just complete high school quickly, either. She performed so well in that classroom that she’s graduating as the valedictorian of Pierson’s Class of 2020.
“Ibeth is an outstanding student all around,” said Principal Berenice Rodriguez, who noted that in addition to being the top student in her class, Guerrero was the president of the Pierson student council during the 2019-20 school year.
Rodriguez called her “a true leader,” adding that “Ibeth is driven and nothing will waver her determination to succeed.”
Guerrero said her involvement with the student council involved a range of activities, such as organizing the school’s participation in the Nogales Christmas parade and the Relay for Life anti-cancer fundraiser; helping students celebrate Valentine’s Day and Spirit Week; and ordering school sweatshirts and planning the prom.
Those events contributed to the school and its community, and also helped her develop her time management, social and communication skills, she said.
“I got to work under pressure a lot and I learned to handle that,” she said.
Guerrero said she decided to go to Pierson, the Nogales Unified School District’s alternative high school, in large part because her cousin was already enrolled there. She said she ended up enjoying all of her classes, “mostly because of the teachers.”
She especially liked completing the final projects for each of her classes, and cited her project for economics class as one she’s most proud of. In that instance, the students had to come up with an idea for a product and research its viability in the marketplace.
Guerrero’s idea was for an app called “Appcademics” for students in middle school through college that she described as a “personal counselor on your phone.”
Her teacher in that class, Mark Nash, made a big impact on her. “He really knows how to explain things, and I love how passionate he gets about teaching,” she said.
“The great thing about Pierson High School was that the teachers have that passion for being a teacher – they like it, they want to teach us,” she said, noting Brad and Alejandra Beach (science and English, respectively) and Alfred Battu (math) as other instructors whom she especially enjoyed.
Guerrero also had two memorable experiences participating in the district-wide Tech Day event under the guidance of computer maintenance teacher Pat Mendez.
The program involves NUSD students making group presentations to a panel of teachers, she explained. The first year she participated, her group gave a presentation on how to use social media for academic purposes. This year, the topic was using Google apps for educational instruction.
Headed for NAU
She said she really enjoys pitching and presenting ideas, and can see herself working for an advertising firm one day. But first, she’s set to begin her collegiate career at Northern Arizona University as a marketing major.
She chose NAU because of the school’s academic standing and the generous financial aid package they offered her, she said. And NAU made its mark by being the first of the state universities to reach out and recruit her via a letter she received last July.
“I remember I opened the letter with my best friend on the phone and I just started crying because I was so excited,” she said.
When the entire NAU package came together and she weighed it against her other options, she said, “I was just like, ‘Let’s do it.’”
In recent days, she’s been talking with her NAU advisor about classes for the fall semester. “It’s just been an exciting journey,” she said.
She said she received tremendous support from her friends and family along the way.
“My family was always really supportive of everything I wanted to do. They always helped me a lot. For example, if I needed to go to an event or to stay late, they would help me,” she said.
Her friends helped her stay motivated to reach her goals. “Sometimes I would be like, ‘This is too much,’ and my friends would always say, ‘No, you can do it,’” she said.
In the end, she’s made her supporters proud.
“That’s a motivation, making the people you love proud,” she said.