We all judge by the covers, even those of us who say we don’t.
Gregori High School senior Cristian Valencia has taken up the old but ever relevant never-judge-a-book phrase as his personal philosophy. And even in the jumble of variety that is high school, Cristian’s is one book that still stands out, not only by its cover but by what’s underneath.
“Never give up,” Cristian says, reflecting on the years of bullying he endured since the fourth grade. After being tormented with insults like “gay” or “nerd” at school, Cristian would come home to even more adversity, from an abusive father, he says, to his parents’ divorce while he was in eighth grade. In spite of this, he has thrived academically and, with a shining 4.82 cumulative GPA, is an impressive top of his senior class.
“I thrive under pressure,” he says. “My heavy course load has never been enough to satisfy me because I end up being bored instead of focusing on having fun how a normal high school student is supposed to.” In addition to three AP classes, Cristian is on the yearbook staff and is involved in all the academic clubs at Gregori, as well as being vice president of the Hispanic Youth Leadership Council. He has been an award-winning Mock Trial attorney since his freshman year and part of the first group to start a Mock Trial program at Gregori. A lover of stage as well as courtroom, he scored the lead role in his high school’s first play, “The Curse of the Werewolf,” in his freshman year and is aiming to score a lead again in this year’s to-be-announced big musical.
Cristian is bilingual, (Spanish being his first language, though you’d never guess it speaking with him) and can speak, read, and write fluently in both Spanish and English. He is broadening his language horizons even further byteaching himself French and American Sign Language. His dream school is Stanford University, where he hopes to major in biochemical engineering and get a degree in medicine.
“I have dreamed about (Stanford) since I was a little boy,” he says. “It has an amazing medical program that I hope to study under. I want to be able to be a doctor but still able to conduct experiments and research. I hope to one day find the cure for diabetes, which my grandfather suffers from.”
Cristian wants to specialize in pediatrics because he loves working with children.
Even while in school, Cristian’s passion for helping others has shown in his roles as a teacher in Gregori’s peer tutoring program and a camp counselor in 2012. “Sixth-grade camp was the best experience of my middle school life, but my counselor wasn’t the best because he was rude, so I vowed to come back as a counselor as soon as I could,” Cristian explains. “Turns out that junior year, my cousin was entering the sixth grade and going to camp, so it was the perfect opportunity.”
Cristian is proud to be Gregori’s first male cheerleader. “This year, I decided to try out for the team because I love to dance and be spirited and cheer is the perfect outlet,” he says. “It also sets me apart from the rest of the college and scholarship applicants. Colleges are always wanting and needing men to be cheerleaders because it is the men that have to throw and hold the fliers up during stunting.”
Of the numerous awards he has won, Cristian says the one that meant the most to him was the Civility Award from Modesto city schools, which he was nominated for after an admirable act in Science Olympiad. After a complication was caused by a discrepancy in the rules at the Olympiad, he chose to disqualify himself rather than disqualify the entire subject from the competition.
On the cover, Christian Valencia appears to be your average brilliant, college-bound, straight-A student. But in all that he has had to overcome, his determination in the face of adversity and overall dauntlessness sets him apart from even the brightest of his peers.
“I never gave up,” he says, “And I never will.”