Esteban Ureña’s main goal wasn’t to be at the top of his class, but rather to do his best every day, he said. Even so, by the end of his senior year, his hard work and 4.6 grade point average had earned him the title of class valedictorian.
Not only did the Rio Rico High School top-ranked senior end the school year with the highest GPA in his class, but his résumé also included numerous extracurricular activities such as membership in the Interact Club, National Honors Society, Border Patrol Explorers and Engineering Club, as well as serving as senior class president.
“In reality, the only competition you have is yourself because everyone is different,” Ureña said. “I think I just set out to do my best and it just fell into place.”
He recounted that middle school wasn’t very difficult for him, but he encountered a much tougher reality in high school.
Math, for example, had always been smooth sailing for him before reaching high school, after which the subject became his most difficult one to understand. Now, Ureña looks back with gratitude at one of his first math teachers at the school: Phillip Brown, his former Cambridge program math instructor.
“He would never tell us the answers and it would frustrate us, but it was actually helping to make us more incentivized to find the answer,” he said. “He kind of showed us the foundation of how we should act in our academic career.”
Although Ureña’s extracurricular activities took up most of his time, he said he used any free time he had to play the trumpet, digitally edit photos and learn to play the guitar. But the memories that he will cherish and miss the most are hanging around his hometown with his friends.
“I think the funnest part was just having all your friends at one place every day. I enjoyed the late-night drives around Rio Rico, just messing around. I don’t think that’s something we’ll be able to experience again,” he said about his friends moving on to different career paths.
As for his own path, Ureña decided to attend the University of Arizona, where he was accepted at the Honors College to double-major in biochemistry and psychology. His long-term goals are to go to medical school and become a family medicine practitioner.
He added that he wouldn’t be in a position to aim so high if it hadn’t been for his parents, who always pushed him while making it clear that their love didn’t depend on his success.
“They always provided for me and put my education first. They always wanted me to learn because they themselves didn’t graduate from university, so I’ll be a first-generation university student,” he said.