Local student overcomes language barrier in two years; gets acce - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Local student overcomes language barrier in two years; gets accepted to university

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KENNEWICK, WA - For many adults, but especially for children and teenagers, adapting to a new country can be a challenge. Reporter Stefani Zenteno spoke to a student who, two years ago, didn't speak a word of English, but in a short period of time, she's been able to succeed in school and overcome the language barrier.

"The first time I saw my teacher, she was like, 'Hi sweetie, how are you, what is your name?' And I was like, 'What is she saying?'" recalled Maria Medrano a graduating Southridge High School student.

Medrano was born in the United States, but when she was two years old, her family went back to Mexico because her grandfather passed away. She grew up and went to school there. In 2015, Medrano came back to the U.S. for a better future. On the first day of school, she couldn't even respond when a teacher asked her her name.

But by the end of the school year, she had learned the language and passed all required state assessments.

"I love math, I love computers," Medrano said. "In the future, I want to be a teacher for math or science."

Medrano is currently enrolled in AP Calculus, and in less than two years she has won awards and has been able to maintain a high GPA.

"I'm very pround of Maria," said English teacher Cassandra Loffler. "I've only had her for one semester, but I've seen her progress from the time she came here to now. Not only in the classroom but also just interacting with students. That makes me feel very proud to see how far she has worked."

In a few weeks, Medrano will be moving to Chicago to attend the University of Illinois, where she plans to study computer science.

"'Let's test her in these other areas and see if she needs to be placed in other classes,'...she did," said Ms. Rodriguez at Southridge High School. She got placed in higher level math. She advocated herself to try to do better because she found the classes to be a little bit easier for her."