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True Grit in Fresno: One Graduate’s Journey

  • Yoseline Delgado Murillo is a dreamer and a striver whose journey to graduation is a tale of determination, struggle, and extraordinary success.

    Murillo has graduated at the top of her class from Design Science Middle College High School in California’s Fresno United School District. She has already attained an associate degree in mathematics from Fresno City College, with highest honors, and has completed the general education requirements for the University of California. 

    And she’s got a slew of Advanced Placement (AP) courses to her credit, some of which she earned the hard way – logging into Zoom classes even while she worked as a minimum-wage laborer in the farm fields outside Fresno. 

    Her aspirations for college and beyond are rooted in that hard work. 

    “It brings me to tears that one day I will stop waking up at 3 a.m. in the morning to get ready for a 12-hour shift under the Fresno sun. I will no longer battle dehydration, skin infections, mosquito bites, and fertilizer rashes,” she wrote in an essay describing her financial need in her successful application for a school district scholarship.

    And there’s more: In the summer of 2020 Murillo earned an A in online calculus, taking the class from the field. 

    The school’s principal, Tressa Overstreet, recalled the day she was running a Zoom meeting with rising seniors when Murillo’s situation caught her attention. 

    “I could tell Yoseline was outside – at work. She had her camera on, and she was working her way down the row. She said, ‘I don’t want to miss anything,’”.

    “It took my breath away. I think I knew then that this child was destined for something remarkable. The strength and inner fierce determination of this young person is why we do what we do in education.” 

    On the first day of the fall 2020 term, Murillo picked peaches at an orchard while logged onto her AP English Zoom class. She has been working 25 to 50 hours a week, according to the district.

    In the Vimeo clip, speaking softly, the young woman expressed her interest in a career in civil engineering. “I fell in love with math my sophomore year of high school. I love the complexity of the numbers and how there are so many ways to find the answers,” she said. 

    Teacher Cheryl Catanzarite praised her work ethic and commitment to both home and school.

    “She gives her earnings to her mom, makes dinner for her siblings and then completes her homework and studies. … She has worked with me on many projects and her positive attitude as well as her genius at figuring out ways to accomplish our goals has made a huge impact on me and the school,” Cantanzarite said, according to a district publication.

    In her essay, Murillo wrote that she was motivated “to work in the fields at a young age because I would see my mother struggle to make ends meet. Helping my mother was helping my family become less unstable. Being able to use my minimum-wage paycheck to buy groceries or pay bills for my family meant the world to me.” 

    She has applied for protection from deportation under DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), a policy that protects hundreds of thousands of young people, known as Dreamers, from deportation and allows them to continue to live and work in the United States. 

    In her essay, she described her stark reality. “I come from a country that I do not know. I am told every day, directly and indirectly, that I do not belong here. This struggle of deciphering who I am and where I am going is a struggle that I face every day,” she wrote.

    Murillo’s GPA is a stellar 4.32, and she will begin classes at the University of California-Los Angeles later this summer. She participated in JROTC and the University of California-San Francisco Medical Rotation Project during her high school career.

    For Murillo, “college will be a vehicle for me being able to return home and help my family after I graduate … and possibly set a higher standard for my siblings, proving to them that you can do it with hard work and hard work gets rewarded.” 

    Overstreet, the principal, said Murillo’s achievements are reason for great optimism.

    “The day that our young people truly, truly internalize how fierce and incredible they are, they are going to change this world,” said Overstreet. “And we need every one of our students to change this world.”