Class of 2014: Career in math education adds up for graduate
This is the fourth and final story in a series profiling graduating students at Worthington High School.
WORTHINGTON — Petite and perky with braces on her teeth, Araceli Jimenez knows she doesn’t look old enough to be graduating from high school. But with diploma now in hand following last night’s graduation ceremony, Araceli is ready to take on the world — as long as it doesn’t take her too far from home too fast.
Araceli moved to Worthington when she was just 5 years old. She came with her family — parents Jose and Maria Jimenez, older brother Miguel, now 20, and younger brother Jose, 14 — from Purepero, Michoacan, Mexico.
“It’s about six hours from Mexico City,” she explained about her birthplace, “in the center (of Mexico), but a little bit down.”
Prior to moving his family here, her father had lived and worked in the United States for a number of years, first in California, then in Sioux Falls, S.D., and then Worthington.
“I remember bits and pieces” about living in Mexico, said Araceli. “I remember that I started kindergarten when I was 4. That was fun.”
Although she is a native of Mexico and speaks and writes Spanish fluently, Araceli is much more rooted in her American community. She acquired citizenship when her mother became a U.S. citizen in 2007. Her father is employed at JBS, and mom is a teacher/aide/bus aide for the local Headstart program.
For Araceli, her high school experience has been “full of volunteer service.” She first became involved with volunteer opportunities through the Nobles County Integration Collaborative and transitioned those interests into her school activities.
“I joined just about every club there was in middle school,” Araceli noted.
By the time she moved into the high school, Araceli narrowed down her involvements into some key areas.
“FCCLA has been the best for me,” she explained, referring to the Family, Career and Community Leaders of America organization. “I’ve been in it since the sixth grade. It’s fun to compete, and the club becomes more like a family. In 10th grade, I did (a presentation on) the benefits of Headstart and got a silver in the region and silver at state. My mom still uses that poster in her job now.”
But Araceli most enjoyed the opportunities for service in FCCLA. The club hosts an annual Breakfast with Santa for young children and does Service Smile presentations through Delta Dental at the elementary school.
“We go to Prairie Elementary and talk to the kids about having a healthy smile and give them a healthy snack and a toothbrush,” she detailed.
Araceli also found a niche in the AOK — Arts-Optimist-Kiwanis — Club, of which she currently serves as president.
“I like all the fun projects we do,” she enthused. “Like we do spring painting out at Pioneer Village. We also get to do a fun trip every year. This year we went to Sioux Falls to see ‘Beauty and the Beast’ and to the butterfly house. All of our fundraisers go to that, like we made chocolate roses for Valentine’s Day, and at Christmas we made Christmas cards and chocolate sleighs.”
Through the collaborative, Araceli has also learned the many benefits of volunteer service through such endeavors as Kids College, Circle Mentoring and an annual service trip called Students Today, Leaders Forever.
“I really liked the programs at the Collaborative and they really helped me get involved in volunteer service,” she credited.
Academically, Araceli said she is “pretty good in every subject except science. Somehow I passed it.”
But her favorite subject, by far, is math.
“I’ve always found math to be easy, except for AP (advance placement) stats this year,” she said. “I can do the math portion, but explaining it? Not so much. I’ve been in advanced math since fifth grade.”
She’s also been in advanced English classes, and this year decided to expand her horizons with some new offerings such as Textiles, Healthy You and Home Survival. In the latter class, she learned home repair tasks, such as fixing a wall.
“I love trying new things,” she said. “It can be scary sometimes, but is always worth the while.”
Between her studies and volunteer opportunities, Araceli also works about five days a week at the local Taco John’s. Her current favorites on the menu are the Flamin’ Hot Cheeto Burrito and Mexi Rolls.
“But nothing beats the Cini-Sopapillas,” endorsed Araceli.
As a junior, Araceli participated in the post-secondary education option at Minnesota West Community and Technical College and earned some college credits. She plans to return there in the fall to pursue an associate’s degree in education. After that, she is considering either Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall of the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities.
“I’m leaning toward Marshall,” she said. “I like how it’s close to home. I’m not a big school person nor a small school person.”
Araceli’s ultimate goal is to teach math at the secondary school level.
“I have changed my career choices so many times — history, Spanish, German, math,” she admitted. “But I’ve always wanted to be a teacher. I like educating others, helping them succeed. That’s probably why I volunteer so much. The best reward is the smile on someone’s face and knowing I’m the cause of that smile.”
Although she’s “pretty sure” about her plans for college, she’s also considering the possibility of military service.
“In December, we had a Navy recruiter (visit the high school), and I talked with him about all the benefits and the leadership and responsibility — all that stuff,” she said. “I looked into it, and it’s an option. But I think I’ll stay with the college option.”
Araceli isn’t too keen on straying too far from her family at the moment.
“I don’t think I could go anywhere without my family’s support,” she said. “They’ve been great role models, especially my big brother and my mom. My brother is currently in his third year at the U of M, studying business.”
Down the road, Araceli can picture herself teaching at a school like Worthington High. She may be ready to leave those high school halls now, but she can picture returning there again as a teacher.
“At first I was nervous about graduating — what am I going to do with the rest of my life? — but I’m ready to take the next step.”
Daily Globe Features Editor Beth Rickers can be reached at 376-7327.