Students who walk into the Pierce College’s computer center are met by a bright and welcoming greeting from Rachel Camarena.
At 17, Camarena knows a thing or two about responsibility. Camarena will be the second person to graduate in her family. Enthusiasm is seen in her expressions while discussing the path her brother helped create.
“My brother was the first person in my family to graduate college,” Camarena said. “I’m excited to be the second one who does. He worked at the computer center, and now I’m working here. It’s nice that I’m following him.”
Camarena already demonstrates the eagerness to take on the responsibility given her. She is a junior at Puyallup High School as well as a Running Start student. But that’s not the label she goes by.
“I consider myself a Pierce student,” she said. “My parents are proud I don’t need a push to take care of my responsibilities. They encourage me and motivate me, but they don’t push me.”
Like most students working toward graduation, motivation is often found from family. Camarena is no different than most students when it comes to family support. It’s just that her family motivation has a twist.
“I am the middle child with an older sibling and a younger one,” Camarena said. “What helps to motivate me is that there is a bet between my parents and my family that lives close by.”
Just beginning to discuss the bet sent Camarena into a small fit of laughter before she could continue.
Three children are in her family. It’s the same in two of her extended families.
“Each of us is around the same age—the oldest are the same age as me and the two other cousins who are the middle children,” she said.
It’s not often that a person is able to grow up with cousins living in the same area around the same age. Camarena said it was nice having them close by, but she has no sympathy for her cousins when it comes to the family bet. This no-holds-barred, grudge match is seen every time Camarena is nose deep into one of her textbooks.
“The bet my family has is serious to me,” Camarena said. “My parents betted who would graduate first between each child group. I’m going against my cousins my age.”
Being a Running Start student might give Camarena an unfair advantage to her cousins, but she doesn’t see it that way.
“They could do Running Start too,” she said. “I want to win the bet.”
Camarena said graduating is not just about a bet between her families. She has desires that go beyond the bet because she wants to accomplish much in her life.
“I want to go to University of Washington Seattle or UW Tacoma and enroll in a medical program,” Camarena said. “I took some high school medical programs and I liked them. I would like to do something like an ultrasound technician.”
When describing how this came about, Camarena said she just wants to help people. It’s the way she is. Yet she does know that it shows strength to be able to ask for help when she needs it.
“I like Pierce because I feel comfortable in approaching people here,” Camarena said. “In high school, there are cliques and people keep to themselves. Here, there are no cliques like that. People want to help each other.”
Camarena said many students at Puyallup High School associated themselves with people of similar looks or interests—people who wore more expensive clothes hung out with each other as would people who dressed in all black. She said students at Pierce don’t place labels as easily.
“It’s awesome to see groups of people hanging out with each other that I wouldn’t see at high school,” Camarena said. “If there are cliques, it’s by classes or studies. But people still are easy to approach.”
That says a lot about the culture being cultivated at Pierce College Puyallup. College is often known as being a scaring environment for first-year students. Camarena said she felt the same way when she first came to Pierce, but the instructors and students helped ease her into her college life.
“People are more themselves here,” Camarena said. “You might hang out with someone you wouldn’t at high school. People are more relaxed and comfortable with themselves.”
Before she came to Pierce, Camarena said that when she asked questions in class, she always felt embarrassed for asking them. It was hard to raise a hand in class to ask the teacher anything in high school because students would judge you for asking.
“I don’t feel like a high school student,” Camarena said. “I like it here because instructors have office hours and it’s easy to talk with them. They want you to ask them questions.”
Sometimes asking questions can alleviate the pressure of an assignment, Camarena said. But there are times when classes can be overwhelming to students so there is a need to unwind. For Camarena, that is baking.
“I love to bake because it helps me relax and think clearly,” Camarena said. “I think that when I bake, I put everything together like how my life is. It’s like turning my life into cooking.”
Baking is a deep-rooted passion of Camarena. It was embedded in her by her mother.
“My mom tried to first teach me how to cook, but she was too bossy for me,” Camarena. “It was easier to learn baking though. And now when we are baking, I’m the bossy one.”
Camarena said that if she does not become a medical technician, she will open a bakery. It’s okay to not yet know what path to take in life—it is the ability to stay motivated that matters.
And it is a sure thing that Camarena will accomplish her goals with strength and a bright smile.
The Puyallup Post is the award-winning news media of Pierce College Puyallup in Puyallup, Washington. Copyright The Puyallup Post 2018. Find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube @thepuyalluppost