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Monterey County

Sixteen-year-old high school student graduates with four degrees from Hartnell College

SOLEDAD, Calif. (KION) A 16-year-old student at Soledad High School will be graduating with much more than a high school diploma this year.

Leily Garcia will also be attending Hartnell College's commencement ceremony, where she has earned not one, but four associate's degrees as part of the school's concurrent dual enrollment programs.

"I was able to accomplish due to what I had all the support all the tools, all the resources," said Garcia.

Garcia's parents immigrated to the US from Mexico in 1991 to be able to provide their family a better life. This is why education is important for Garcia and her family.

"When they came to this country, they were agricultural workers, skilled workers, and it was very intense labor," said Garcia. "It wasn't very well paid, not very well conditions. So they understand now, what the value of education is."

In the summer before her freshman year, Garcia and her parents decided for her to be a part of the school's concurrent dual enrollment programs. She graduates from Hartnell College with four degrees in Spanish, Culture and Society, Humanities and Languages and Literature. At first, she wanted a small taste of what it's like to be independent, but now her focus is on her future, she said.

“I have 12 years of schooling ahead of me because I want to become a doctor. So, therefore, I want to shorten that time and make it as short as possible. So later, I can help people sooner than I can," said Garcia. "A lot of medical professionals don't necessarily have the skills required to communicate, they need a translator and it takes a little bit longer to help those people in need.

Garcia, a first-generation college student, will be the youngest member of Soledad High's class of '21 with a weighted GPA of 4.6, and she has plans to attend UCLA in the fall where she will study biology before continuing on to medical school. She will enter at about a mid-sophomore level.

Garcia's mother, Maria Elena said she is very proud of her daughter's accomplishments. She hopes her daughter's hard work pays off so that she becomes a successful doctor and helps the Spanish-speaking community.

"Some people said that it takes a village and with her, that's a reality," said Maria Elena Garcia. "All the things I was unable to do in my childhood, or the lack of support, or opportunities that I had, she can take advantage of those."

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Jonathan Sarabia

Jonathan is a multi-media journalist at KION News Channel 5/46.

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