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Barrera represents MCHS, family and heritage with academic honor

By Thomas Sellers Jr.

2013 Millington Central High School Salutatorian Ana Barrera was born in Mexico and moved to the United States in the summer of 1999. She overcame a language barrier to earn a scholarship to the Ivy League school The University of Penn. 

2013 Millington Central High School Salutatorian Ana Barrera was born in Mexico and moved to the United States in the summer of 1999. She overcame a language barrier to earn a scholarship to the Ivy League school The University of Penn.

Before Ana Barrera could have a first day of school, she had to have a first day in the United States of America.
When her family moved from Mexico in 1999, Barrera was almost 5 years old. With her parents Baltazar and Francisca seeking a better opportunities, the Barrera family settled in Millington. And the little girl who was still learning English when she entered Millington East Elementary matured into the 2013 Millington Central High School Salutatorian.
Through the years, Ana said her parents served as an example of hard work, her sister Sara paved the way and instructors from Kindergarten to 12th grade helped guide her along the academic road.
“My sister was the first to go to school,” she recalled. “I kind of saw what she was doing. And I attend her Kindergarten class for projects they invited me to. And honestly it wasn’t too hard for me to adjust.
“Learning English was a little bit difficult because you have somebody standing there not knowing what to think,” Ana continued. “But when you’re young it’s not to difficult to learn. Mrs. Thomley was tremendous to me. She really went out of her way to involve me in the class even through I was having language issues. I’m just grateful for her helping me and being so kind to me.”
Barrera’s nerves were eased in those days in her first American classroom. And 12 years later she had nerves applying for a prestigious Ivy League scholarship. But MCHS Career Counselor Constance Certion took on a role similar to Mrs. Thomley for Barrera.
“She helped me so much in the application process,” Barrera said. “Mrs. Certion was very generous with her time and helped me through the process.”
Barrera’s application paid off in a letter that came to her home in December. This fall she will attend the University of Pennsylvania at the Wharton College of Business.
“When I opened that letter, it was like a heart-stoping moment,” Barrera recalled. “I had applied and I wanted it. But you never know if you would get it because it’s so rare. I was overwhelmed and I’m so excited to go to Philadelphia next year.
“When I was applying, I wanted somebody to look up to that has already gone through this process,” she added. “There really wasn’t somebody who ventured out that far. So I hope what I did will help somebody else who wants to do it and show them that it is possible.”
Like her sister Sara being a trailblazer for her, Barrera wanted her scholarship to serve as a template for future Trojans.
“Everybody has a unique story,” she said. “I guess it was determination and a blessing from God that separated me.”
Barrera’s story includes her sister Sara graduating from MCHS last year and now attending the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. Barrera equaled and surpassed some of her sister’s accomplishments at Millington.
Ana was a member of the National Honor Society, Beta Club, SGA and part of the Senior Video. While playing soccer for the Lady Trojans, she found time to participate in the Knowledge Bowl while maintaining a 4.0 grade point average.
Also a part of Barrera’s story was her parents Francisca and Baltazar.
“I was 15 when I got my citizenship,” Ana recalled. “My parent weren’t actually pushing me in academics. But through examples I saw the high expectations. They might have not pushed me to get straight A’s. But I saw, you’re doing your best, so I should do my best.”
Barrera’s best helped her score a 29 on the ACT and finish second among her peers. Now with that reward comes her moment in the spotlight on the Hope Presbyterian stage May 17 at 7 p.m.
“I’m really nervous about the speech,” she acknowledged. “But I was really thrilled. Also I get to stand in front of all my peers. This might be the last time I get to see many of them.
“The end of high school is like the end of a chapter,” Barrera  continued. “But I’m going to be looked up to by people I hope I can inspire them to find their own passion.”
Following her passions and overcoming barriers has made Barrera a success story in the Class of 2013.
“I feel very blessed for the opportunity,” she concluded. “I know people who do work tremendously hard and don’t get rewarded. That’s a sad truth about life. So I do feel very grateful and very lucky for everything I’ve gotten. I hope people do see my obstacles. But I do hope they just see me as a person and for the things I’ve done.”

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