One Step Closer


High school seniors planning to attend a college or university participated in an important process this semester, one that many had been working toward for years: college applications.

“For me, high school has really been about building a strong work ethic and foundation for skills you might need in college,” shared Matthew Torre, Patriot senior. He and other seniors at JUSD high schools have spent the past few months preparing and submitting their applications. Whether the goal was to apply to one school or ten, students overcame challenges and thought deeply about their futures.

Kylie Carmona, RHSMariana Leno, NVHSDiana Lopez, JVHSMelissa Lopez. JVHS
(Left to Right) Kylie Carmona, RHS, is taking college courses through RCC. Mariana Leno, NVHS, wants to become a registered NICU nurse. Diana Lopez, JVHS, is ranked #1 in her class. Melissa Lopez, JVHS, plans to major in nutrition.​

Some students had extensive criteria for choosing schools. Matthew looked at class size, majors offered, location, and how convenient it would be to travel home to see his parents.​ But Joshua Ramirez found unique strengths in each of his options. “[I’ve] always had this dream of applying to one of the top schools, so right now I’ve applied to MIT, fully,” shared the Jurupa Valley engineering student. Joshua is also considering the University of California San Diego because of the “phenomenal campus” and “amazing” architecture.

Others, like Diana Lopez, focused on a single factor. “Most of [the schools] are far away from where I live,” shared the JVHS senior. “I know there’s more of the world out there than just here.“ Diana’s guidance counselor encouraged this approach, urging her to apply to private schools on the east coast. “She knows I can do it,” explained Diana. “[She reminds me] Jurupa Valley will still be there if I come back.”

Kylie Carmona chose schools with impressive engineering programs. “I really [want] to break through the cultural barriers in STEM majors,” said the Rubidoux senior. Meanwhile, Melissa Lopez received sage advice from friends already in college. “Go to a school that feels true to me,” shared the JVHS senior. “That feels right.”


Some applications focused on basic information while others required letters of recommendation and answers to challenging supplemental questions. “I really had to think deeply about myself as well as my academics,” shared Jacqueline Villalta, PHS senior.

For the students who applied across different systems or states, juggling requirements and deadlines while maintaining classwork, extracurriculars, and after-school jobs presented numerous challenges. Many sought help from parents and relatives, but as a first-generation student, Kylie could not rely on her family to help with tasks like financial aid. She utilized the RHS career center and programs like Upward Bound that provide support for first-gen students.

Similarly, Mariana Leno and Diana Moreno, both Nueva Vista seniors, credit their school’s encouraging culture and their career center clerk for making the college application process a positive experience. “It wasn’t really challenging, thanks to Ms. Muralles. She helped us a lot,” said Diana. 

“I don’t think I could have done it without her,” added Mariana. “I’m honestly thankful for having her.”

Diana Moreno, NVHSJoshua Ramirez, JVHSMatthew Torre, PHSJacqueline Villalta, PHS
(Left to Right) Diana Moreno, NVHS, hopes to become a correctional officer. Joshua Ramirez, JVHS, has completed two engineering CTE pathways. Matthew Torre, PHS, is a league wrestling champion and captain. Jacqueline Villalta, PHS, plans to pursue a career in social work.

Students experienced various emotions after submitting their applications. Though the journey toward college is far from over, the act of applying is significant and even transformative for some students.

“I think it was equal parts freeing [because] I was done, but also it was scary at the same time because it’s taking the next step into my life,” shared Melissa.

Jacqueline shared a similar sentiment. “For me, it felt like I had taken a big step,” she said. “I’m one step closer to my future.”

“It’s like the culmination of your high school experience,” added Matthew. “You’re really feeling that all the work you’ve done is paying off.”


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