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How Gaby’s love for the dentist drives her ambitions

Outdoor Photo Of Gaby With A Faded Brick Building Behind Her.

High school graduate Gaby stands out for many reasons, but one might take some folks aback – she loves the dentist.

Reflecting on her childhood, Gaby shares, “When I was a kid, I used to hate my teeth and smile. I still do, but not as much.” This experience early in her life motivates Gaby to pursue dentistry and help young people achieve greater confidence. “I don’t want other kids to feel the way I did. It’s really hard.”

Gaby radiates confidence and has a bright future, and it comes from great intentionality and effort. Born in Venezuela, her family immigrated to the United States eight years ago. This move brought with it many challenges but also many opportunities, including College Possible, which has bolstered her confidence and prepared her for life after high school.

Beginning middle school in Florida after moving there in 2016, Gaby was an English Language Learner (ELL) student for several years, as her first language is Spanish. Because much of her family lives in Venezuela, she struggled to find her footing and often felt stigmatized at school. Eventually, Gaby moved to Columbus, Nebraska where she began ninth grade on a positive note. She recalls, “When I started high school at Columbus, I felt really happy because Columbus High School had an amazing ELL system, but when I moved her to Omaha, I started to feel sad because I had left all my friends and since it was my third time moving here in the U.S., I was having difficulties socializing.” She also remembers making friends with folks who, in hindsight, were going down different paths from what she saw for herself. One day, she decided to shift her priorities and began focusing more on her academics. What motivated her was thinking about the consequences of her actions, and whether they would lead to her getting closer to her goals.

When her family moved to Omaha in the fall of 2022, Gaby transferred to Millard South High School. Facing these moments of transition and social anxiety, Gaby’s attitude remained positive, and she has since made the most of the opportunities presented to her.

Gaby remembers learning about College Possible during her junior year. “I didn’t know a lot about college,” she shares, “so when I heard the announcement, I applied.” Actively participating throughout her senior year, Gaby reflects on her experience in the program thus far. “I really like College Possible. They gave me hope. Whenever I have a question, I ask College Possible.”

Gaby demonstrates relentless motivation. As she became more comfortable living in the U.S., she found new ways to get involved in and outside of school. Not only has she taken multiple AP and honors courses at Millard South, but she is also engaged in several extracurriculars. Freshman and sophomore year, Gaby participated in Key Club, an international, student-led service organization that encourages leadership in others, as well as Art Club. Sophomore year she joined the swim team and danced ballet after school, while in junior year she started track and field. Senior year she enrolled in the Exploring Dentistry Program at Creighton University, a nine-week series of events with presentations from specialists and hands-on projects. Additionally, she participated in the Erickson and Sederstrom Law Program, through which she got to explore careers in law. Since last September, Gaby has also served on the Diversity Council at Millard South, where she leads conversations around race, ethnicity, culture, and inclusion with students and staff.

Gaby also has a knack for the arts. She enjoys painting and, for over a year, she has modeled with Monarkia Institute, participating in photoshoots, and acquiring greater self-confidence along the way. This year, she was selected to model for two designers at Omaha Fashion Week, which has been one of many highlights this semester. She also helps makeup artists by serving as their canvas to work on. To give back to the community, she and her fellow models help Latina girls find the best dress for their quinceañeras.

As a former ELL student, Gaby often thinks about her peers for whom English is not their first language. She knows many ELL students at Millard South plan to enter the workforce immediately after high school. However, Gaby encourages them to pursue higher education. “Every time I talk to them, I tell them they can do more,” she shares. “I want to see more Hispanics and Latinos graduate from college.” Gaby strives to be part of the 52 percent of Latino students who earn a four-year degree.

A recipient of the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation Scholarship, Gaby plans to attend the University of Nebraska Omaha and eventually pursue dental school. She is inspired by her older brother, who is a dentist himself, and enjoys the prospect of working alongside him in the future.

This story was written by Chase Cutarelli, Gaby’s high school coach and AmeriCorps service member at College Possible Omaha.

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