Isaías Alvarado | La Opinión
January 15, 2009 -- There is very little time left before Barack Obama becomes the first African American president of the United States. And Jacquelín Mendoza is keeping perfect track of the time.
“I’m very nervous because it’s a great event, and I only think that the moment will be historic and I will be there to see it,” she says.
This eighth-grade student at Nightingale Middle School in Cypress Park will attend Obama’s inauguration in Washington, D.C., next Tuesday, January 20.
She has also been invited to take part in a conference with the former Secretary of State Colin Powell and the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize Al Gore.
Yesterday, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa offered a reception for Mendoza, her relatives and teachers at City Hall, before she left for the nation’s capital.
“Congratulations!” was the first thing the mayor said to her. “You must be very proud of your daughter,” he said to Jacquelín’s mother, Ana Mendoza.
Villaraigosa paused in a meeting with economists from all over the state where they analyzed behind closed doors the “serious” budget deficit in Los Angeles.
A cake in the shape of the U.S. flag with the words “Proud of you, Jacquelín” was given to this student.
On behalf of the city government, Councilman Ed Reyes, representative of District 1, where the Mendoza family lives, delivered to her at the end of 2008 financial support to cover the costs of the trip.
Jacquelín’s academic achievements are countless: she is the president of the group of Academic Achievement in Math, Engineering and Sciences (MESA), and captain of the science team at her school. Furthermore, she participated in a competition in this latter category with some 5,000 students from 26 states.
Therefore, since she was informed of her visit to the White House, she hasn’t stopped studying. She always has a pile of books to read, homework and projects to finish, and “a lot of tests,” she says.
Jacquelín’s mother, Ana Mendoza, who is originally from Mexico City, only finished first grade.
“What she’s doing will help other children who also have the ability, but may not have the drive to do things,” commented Mrs. Mendoza.
For Manuel Díaz, the principal of Nightingale Middle School, the fact that the school is in an area where families with limited resources live and that it has gang problems doesn’t mean that students can’t get good grades.
“She is an example not only for students, but also for the whole community,” he said.
Jacquelín wants to be a doctor. Díaz points out that her excellent grades will open the doors of many universities for her. “In 20 years I can see her doing whatever she wants to do, and very successfully,” said the principal.
The student’s father, who is a tailor, was the one who made the coral-colored dress that the young lady will wear to Obama’s inauguration ceremony. For a few days it has been ready in a closet in the Mendoza residence.
Her parents have counseled her “not to get nervous, to eat well so that I can enjoy my trip and for me to take lots of pictures,” she mentions with an enormous smile.
On the other hand, her fellow students have asked her in jest to “bring back something of Barack Obama’s, like a piece of his suit or his hair.”
Wearing a formal pantsuit and a long-sleeved blouse, Jacquelín stood in front of several media that accompanied her yesterday to City Hall. A few steps away, her mother couldn’t stop looking with pride at what her daughter had accomplished because of her love for books.