High school graduation is a significant turning point in a student’s life, a marker of a child turning into an adult amid strains of “Pomp and Circumstance” and parents shouldering each other to get the best shot of their child as he or she walks across the stage.
For the student, it represents a chance to finally relax and take in one last summer before entering the real world.
But for Vanesa Trejo, it was a little more hectic May 23.
The 18-year-old Ukiah resident graduated that morning with honors from Charter Academy of the Redwoods, and then later that night received her associate’s degree from Mendocino Community College, graduating Phi Beta Kappa.
The two degrees capped Trejo’s hard work, starting at age 13, of taking college courses along with her regular school studies, including summer and online classes.
“It’s not her style to coast — ever,” said Redwood Principal Elna Gordon.
Trejo will have a two-year head start over most of her peer group when she starts this week at San Francisco State University, majoring in business with a concentration in marketing with hopes of becoming a fashion buyer for a clothing or department store.
“I actually do like being busy all the time,” Trejo said.
Despite the heavy academic workload, Trejo was able to carve out time for other activities, including working with the local Rotary Club to raise funds to buy guitars for military personnel and provide financial assistance for a Mexican orphanage.
“I never once heard her complain about her workload,” Gordon said. “My impression overall is she is a phenomenal human being who can handle more than most teenagers.”
She also participated in Ballet Folklorico of Mendocino, performing dances from different regions of Mexico. Trejo said she preferred to dance to the mariachi music from the Jalisco region of Mexico.
“I like the dresses because they are a little more elaborate. They are a lot heavier and bigger,” said Trejo, who added that she likes to twirl in her dress as she dances.
Trejo picked up the fashion bug when as part of a travel club she went on an East Coast tour and visited New York.
“I’ve always wanted to dress up and liked to experiment with clothing,” she said. “A color you are wearing can affect your whole mood and attitude.”
She prefers Forever 21 clothing and Betsey Johnson’s designs because “I like how it’s a lot more retro.”
Trejo said she is excited about attending college in San Francisco. She plans to live off campus with some family friends.
“I look forward to getting a little taste out of the small town I grew up in,” Trejo said. “I think I’m ready and just excited to get out there and start a new chapter in my life.”