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Angela Cantu-Rivera, a member of the Jimmy Carter Early College High School Class of 2020, was gearing up for UIL Regionals for the second year in a row when COVID-19 shut down the country.
Cantu-Rivera has been competing in University Interscholastic League events throughout high school. She competed in Debate, Persuasive Speaking and Current Events.
With aspirations to become an attorney, Cantu-Rivera felt these events in particular would help hone her abilities as a speaker – and noted they absolutely have.
“I specifically want to be a human rights attorney,” Cantu-Rivera said. “I thought those events would enhance my public speaking skills and enhance the way I combat arguments.”
Qualifying for Regionals required hard work and determination throughout the school year, and Cantu-Rivera was looking forward to competing as a senior before the pandemic hit. She also expressed her disappointment that the usual senior events like prom and graduation had been altered, or downright cancelled.
“The thing I was most excited for was actually Regionals,” Cantu-Rivera said. “I really wanted to finish my senior year with going to Regionals in San Antonio – that for me was a huge letdown.”
She noted that when campuses closed, her and her peers’ routines were greatly impacted.
“I’m a person that needs a schedule, I need something to do 24/7,” Cantu-Rivera said. “And with the coronavirus and online learning, I feel like my schedule has been shifted so much to the point where I feel like I’m not grasping information and learning everything that I want to learn.”
The abrupt shift from a full day of school to staying at home due to quarantine impacted Cantu-Rivera, and she was sure it has impacted her peers as well.
Cantu-Rivera will be attending the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley in the fall, with the intent of majoring in political science. She hopes to become an attorney and eventually run for office.
“If this dials down, I hope to take all lecture classes,” Cantu-Rivera said. “I want to get a degree in political science in order to transition to law school eventually.”
Her drive to contribute as an attorney is fueled by the lack of leadership she has seen in this country.
“It’s everything I see in the news and politics,” Cantu-Rivera said. “The way that I see our country is going, it really pushes me and drives me to one day become a politician and change the course our country is taking.”
Cantu-Rivera will miss the friends she made and the teachers who taught her throughout the years at Jimmy Carter ECHS.
“My teachers, the staff and my friends – the people who I was surrounded with day in and day out – I think they really influenced my high school experience,” Cantu-Rivera said.
She specifically thanked one of her teachers, UIL Coordinator and Coach Claudia Camarillo, for being the person who made the most impact on her education.
“She was the person that was always there for me, especially in UIL competitions when I felt like I wasn’t doing well enough or that I wasn’t going to reach far enough,” Cantu-Rivera said. “I always doubted myself, and she was the person there telling me that I was going to do better, I was going to be a phenomenal lawyer one day. It was always her.”
She noted that her parents, especially her mother, have been instrumental to her success as a student and person.
“[My mom] is the epitome of a hardworking woman and what a true feminist should look like,” Cantu-Rivera said. “Having grown up under her shadow, she has made me like her, and at times more determined than she is – she is a major part of who I am today.”
Despite the coronavirus preventing her chance at Regionals, Cantu-Rivera said it put into perspective that things shouldn’t be taken for granted. She wished the best for her and her fellow classmates as they look to the future.
“We don’t realize what we have, that the drive or ride to school is really a blessing,” Cantu-Rivera said. “We don’t realize what we have until we eventually lose it, and I think that’s something very important that I’ve learned from this experience.”