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John Ortega
Ms. Burnett
30 April 2015
Goodmorning my name is John Ortega and Ive been attending Vaughn since my first day
of school in Pre-K, and now my last day of school here at Vaughn is approaching rapidly. I have
really enjoyed my time attending this school because Ive learned so many wonderful things I
probably would have not learned at another school. Vaughn was able to give me opportunities I
would not have received anywhere else. Throughout my four years here in high school Ive
completed so many projects and tasks that have prepped me and crafted me into the person I am
today. The same projects and experiences youre enduring now are also preparing you for college
readiness, as they have for me.
In ninth grade I came into high school as a careless and bratty fourteen-year-old but that
changed soon after I realized that all my actions from there on out would affect my future in
highschool as well as my college decisions. (9th Grade Artifacts) My first actual project as a
freshman was the This I Believe essay in the Honors English 9 course. In this essay I had to write
about a belief or idea, that I strongly believe in, through a descriptive story using sensory detail
in order to show and not tell my audience. This was the first of many challenging writing pieces I
would endure throughout high school. This was the first time I learned about MLA format, which
I ended up needing for almost every formal piece of writing I completed there on out. This
project helped me learn so much, especially since it was the first ever high school level writing I
ever completed. This essay helped me learn skills that have helped me become more prepared for

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college. This project helped me learn and develop a valuable skill, which was the writing
process. Before completing this project I didnt have a sense of process. I would just jumble all
of my ideas on paper. Now Im aware that the writing process consists of the basic
brainstorming, drafting, revising over and over again until you are satisfied with your essay. Im
glad I learned this skill because its a skill that helped my writing become more effective and
organized throughout high school.. It will also certainly help organize my writing while in
One of my favorite projects I completed freshman year was a project in the Digital Literacy
class called Project C.A.R.E.. The purpose of this project was to raise awareness about any
marginalized group. A marginalized group is a group of a specific type of people who are treated
as if they are insignificant within a society. My group completed our project on autistic people
because we really wanted people to become more educated on autistic people.
This project was one of my favorites because I learned so much, not only about autism,
but as well as skills that have helped me succeed in similar projects throughout high school.
Through Project C.A.R.E. I was able to investigate the world because autism is a worldwide
disorder. Before I never even thought about marginalized groups and their troubles. My
investigation allowed me to recognize perspective because I was now aware of how marginalized
autistic children are shunned out of society and affected. This allowed me to become a more
compassionate person towards those with similar disorders that put them through challenging
situations each day.
Freshman year finally came to an end and then I started sophomore year.(banned book
artifact) In my Honors English 10 class I completed The Banned Book Project. This was an
interesting project because I learned about something I had never in my life heard about before.

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Basically, some schools have banned certain books based on their content. The detrimental thing
about banning books is that it limits students from expanding their imagination and limits them
from being exposed to the valuable stories that these books encompass. After research the next
step of the project was to write a letter to a school that has banned their students from possessing
or reading specific types of books. The letter also had to be in business letter format, which is
something I had never even heard of before. Learning how to write a business letter further
prepared me for college because if I ever need to write one Ill know exactly what to do.. The
Banned Book Project also allowed me to become a more globally competent student because I
investigated this issue that affects many students across the world. . Through my investigation I
have learned to value my freedom that allows me to read any books that I want to read.
That same year in my Environmental Science class I completed one of the most intricate
and challenging projects I have ever endured. (VEI slide) That project was called V.E.I, short for
VISAs Environmentalists Initiative. The purpose of this class project was to focus on an
environmental issue and devise a solution in order to help solve this issue on a communal level.
My group realized that many people in our community do not recycle electronics that cannot be
thrown away with the regular garbage. Therefore we named our group Collecting and Recycling
Electronics (C.A.R.E) and made it our mission to inform people on the issue as well as help them
recycle. Before this project I wasnt even aware that all electronics need to be recycled. In fact I
was quite ignorant and never even thought about it before. Through research and investigation of
the world I learned that electronics do in fact need to be recycled, otherwise they damage the
land once they end up in landfills. This research helped changed my lifestyle, because now I
make sure that I recycle any electronics that I need to dispose of..

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Tenth grade was a very great year for me because I feel like that year was the year I
gained most of my global competency. My environmental science class really helped me learn
more about our world and all the things wrong and right with it. After taking that class and
becoming more informed I, more than ever, feel the need to take initiative and better the world
with as best as I can.
In eleventh grade the learning continued. (synthesis essay) In my AP English Language
and Composition class I was assigned a really tough writing assignment. I believed it to be tough
mainly because I had never encountered anything like it in the past.. My essay was on the topic
that Huckleberry Finn should not be altered nor removed from schools. The purpose of this
project was to devise a well-developed thesis and properly use the sources I gathered in order
and strongly support my thesis. This essay helped me develop more academic skills that will be
useful in the future. Before writing this essay I used to use very basic vocabulary words like
different or agree in formal essays but I have learned that simple words do not aid effective
writing and will cause me to lose points when graded. I have learned that using more advanced
words will make my argument much stronger and is also impressive. Strong vocabulary is not a
skill that I have fully developed since that will take time, so for now I do my best to heighten the
level of my writing by replacing simple words with more sophisticated words. Writing this essay
also helped improve some of my skills such as my proper use of punctuations. I still havent
mastered this skill but now Im able to properly use commas, colons, and semicolons. Through
writing this essay Through writing this essay I learned a few things about myself that are good to
know. The day before this assignment was due my friends and I gathered at a coffee shop and
dedicated our time there with helping each other better our essays. This was great because I
would ask them for advice on something I was unsure of and they could provide me with

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suggestions or they would proofread my essay to make sure there weren't any mistakes. This was
a very useful technique because we were able to notice our improvement, Without our session at
the coffee shop I don't think my essay would have definitely scored lower. When I go off to
college I wont be afraid to ask my classmates for advice or to proofread my essays because now I
know it will only help me.
(spring break slide) During Spring Break of my Junior year I was able to travel out of the
country and to some cities in the UK as well as France. In London we did a lot of sightseeing of
the castles and main monuments. In Paris we visited the Eiffel Tower of course and my overall
favorite place, The Palace of Versailles. Many of the places we visited were unimaginable. My
trip to Europe has really helped me become a more globally competent student. Global
competence starts with being curious, aware, and wanting to learn about the world and how it
works, and that's exactly what I was. This trip further extended my investigation of the world
from all the things i've learned about English and French history. It has allowed me to better
understand the different cultures and lifestyles that other people have. I believe this trip helped
me become more ready for college it has given me a different perspective of a different way of
life. I believe having different perspectives can be very beneficial. If I ever need to write an essay
on a relatable topic this new perspective will give me an advantage.
Once eleventh grade came to an end it was finally here, Senior Year was finally here. In
my English 12 class my teacher, Ms. Burnett designed a whole unit dedicated to college. (college
unit slide)In this unit I completed a lot of research on the steps it takes to get to college, what
college life is like, and how to succeed in college. Before entering English 12 I didn't even know
how to apply to any colleges. After completing the unit I was able to apply for college and I
know the steps and classes I need to take as a biology major. Another part of this unit was

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researching how to get the career I desired. I wanted to research how to become a physician.
Completing the college unit helped me gain so much more knowledge on how to become a
physician. For example, before I believed it only took eight years to become a physician but after
research it turns out it might actually take up to twelve years. I also know that becoming a
physician requires over five years of fellowships and training. Overall this unit has helped me
feel more prepared for college because I am no longer unaware of what to expect if I happen to
choose that path.
Another very important project I completed senior year was the research paper on a
government related issue for both English 12 and AP U.S. Government. (research paper) The
research paper was a paper solely on a government related issue. I chose to write my paper on
gun control laws in America. In order to complete the assignment I had to conducted a lot of
research on the issue. The purpose of this project for me was to gaining experience and
knowledge on writing research papers, learning new perspectives, and communicating ideas.
Through the completion of this research paper I have become a more globally competent
student because I gained new perspectives on gun control, such as that conservatives dont care
about the safety of the country but more so the second amendment. I also communicated ideas
through this research paper. I communicated my solution on the issue, which is that requirements
in order to own a firearm should require fingerprinting. Before the completion of this assignment
I did not have much knowledge on the issue besides that gun violence is, and always has been a
national issue. After completing this essay I was more aware of why gun violence happens too
frequently, why people support altering the second amendment, and why other dont support
subtle change. I also gained new perspectives on the issue. The research paper challenged me to
gather idea, gain perspective, construct a solution and organize all of that into a single essay.

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Now that Im done talking to you all about my learning experience here at Vaughn, I
would like to give you some advice that I hope you really grasp because its something I wish I
would have known coming in to high school. (advice slide) First off I would like to say that
grades are very important for college acceptance, which is a given. If you think youll get into a
good school with basic grades, it just really isnt going to happen. When it comes to things such
as college acceptance, passing AP tests, or things of the sort you should never rely on luck to get
you by because thats just unrealistic. Therefore it is always best to be ahead and avoid having to
depend on luck. The best thing for you to do is know what way you want to. What I mean by that
is knowing whether you want to go through the CSU path or the UC path. The CSU path means
youre striving to get into a California State University so all you need are grades that are above
the 3.0 standard. You also need to be somewhat involved. AP classes arent necessarily crucial
for your acceptance but can save you money. Getting into a CSU is not that much of a challenge
when your grades are slightly above average. Therefore if you know you want to go to a CSU
you shouldnt stress yourself out so much by trying to take every AP class and you should really
strive for Bs, although AP classes and As will only help you.
If you decide that you want to take the University of California path you need to really
need to put a lot of effort into it, otherwise it just isnt going to happen. These schools are very
competitive and only accept students with an exceptional background. This means scoring above
average on your SATs and ACTs. This means taking every AP class and doing well in them. You
must not only be an involved student but you must also be well rounded that is in clubs, that
helps the community, that plays sports, etc. This also means getting a 4.0 on every report card
from freshman year to senior year. These are the students they are looking for.

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I learned this the hard way because throughout all my years in high school I believed I
was doing well enough to attend one of the more prestigious UCs. I was always uncertain
whether my chances were good or bad but I always believed I would somehow make it by. Now
I realized that I my grades after all weren't good enough for one of the better UCs that I had in
mind. Had I known this in advance I wouldn't have stressed myself out by taking almost every
AP class I could because I would have most likely still been admitted to my school without
taking them. They were still a great learning experience but I think it's always best to minimize
the stress you put yourself through.
Vaughn has provided me with so many opportunities and advantages but the schools
system is by no means perfect. I think one thing the administration at this school should improve
on is the selection of long term substitutes. I realized this was a problem in 11th grade when my
AP US History teacher left and was replaced by someone who had never taught an AP class
before. I truly believe that put me and my classmates at a disadvantage because we deserve
teachers who are capable of taking over a course without a problem. The same thing occurred
senior year when our supposed AP Calculus teacher ended up leaving suddenly so she was
replaced by a substitute that was incredibly lost most of the time. This was extremely detrimental
to the class because Calculus is a very difficult subject in which each day is important. Much to
my surprise, this year my AP Art History teacher was on maternity leave and a long term sub was
hired. She too was lost most of the time.
In order to prevent this from happening and ensuring the success of students,
administration should perform a better job of selecting long term sub. They can accomplish this
by raising qualifications or by relying more on demos. Teacher demos really allow students to

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voice their opinions on a teacher before its too late. After all they are the ones who are going to
be stuck with this teacher.
(ending slide) My time here at VISA has finally come to an end and I am grateful for all
the opportunities that were offered to me. I am appreciative of all the hard work my teachers put
in and all the memories I made with friends. I am now a globally competent student ready to take
on the next step in my life.