Veronica Ledesma was all over social media recently.
But the 18-year-old southwest Detroit resident was not being singled out for a social faux pas or silly dance video. She was honored by Detroit Public Schools Community District for being in the top three percent of graduating seniors.
This June she graduates with honors from Western International High School in southwest Detroit.
“It feels good,” Ledesma said. “All of my hard work these past four years has paid off. I’m excited to see what the future holds.”
The proud grad said she knows getting an education is important, because without it she is doomed to a lifetime of struggle.
“If you want to get ahead in life, you have to have an education,” Ledesma counseled.
Ledesma will attend the University of Michigan-Dearborn in the fall on an Opportunity and Victors scholarship. Scholarship applicants must attend a Michigan public high school located in an area which the state has designated as having a disadvantaged population of 65 percent or higher. Applicants also must be United States citizens and fulfill the university’s guidelines for being an in-state student.
The merit-based scholarship pays $8,000 over four years to attend school at the U of M’s Dearborn campus. Only 25 scholarships were awarded in this category this year.
Ledesma, who maintained a 4.0 grade point average throughout her entire high school, will study criminal justice forensics. She jokes she will be southwest Detroit’s CSI.
“I originally wanted to be a nurse,” Ledesma said. “But after looking into it, forensics seemed interesting.”
The outstanding senior said forensics gives her an opportunity to help people in similar manner that a nurse would, with the added caveat of solving crimes. She quips that if her life after graduation was a TV show, it would be called “Southwest Detroit: CSI.”
Ledesma is a member of the National Honors Society and said she wants to be a role model to her younger sisters, who will be entering the 4th and 9th grades in the 2018-2019 school year.
“I want them to understand that school is really important,” she said. “If you don’t get an education you will really struggle in life. I try to give them an idea of the person they might want to be.”
Ledesma said she struggled with her studies when she transitioned form middle school to high school and it taught her the value of hard work.
“I had to stay on top of my game,” she said. “I think having a big support system around me helped.”
Ledesma’s mother, Florence “Florie” Ledesma, 42, said school is important in their household.
“I am ecstatic for her,” she said of her daughter. “All the hard work has paid off; all the late nights studying. All the crying. We are almost at the finish line.”
Veronica Ledesma has been able to keep her grades up even while working part-time at a popcorn stand in the Southland Mall.
She said she is not nervous about attending college classes. She said high school taught her something that will carry over to her university studies.
“No one is going to hold your hand,” she said. “No one is going to push you. It takes hard work.”