Class of 2016: Mayorga aspires to be a role model for other students

Indecisiveness is plaguing Christopher Mayorga at the moment. The WHS senior is coming up against the deadline for choosing the college/university he will attend in the fall, and he can't quite make up his mind."I've got it narrowed down a little...

Christopher Mayorga
Christopher Mayorga stands in the hallway at Worthington High School, outside the room where he spends a lot of time for his involvement in BPA. Mayorga was accepted to QuestBridge and is decided between several top-notch universities to attend in the fall. (Beth Rickers/Daily Globe)

Indecisiveness is plaguing Christopher Mayorga at the moment. The WHS senior is coming up against the deadline for choosing the college/university he will attend in the fall, and he can’t quite make up his mind.
“I’ve got it narrowed down a little bit more,” he said with a sheepish smile. “... I’ve narrowed it to Northwestern (University in Evanston, Ill.) or Haverford (College in Pennsylvania).”
But Christopher feels fortunate to have such higher education options, as many students in his circumstances don’t have the opportunities with which he is presented. Those opportunities come through QuestBridge, a national nonprofit organization that matches “the nation’s brightest students from low-income backgrounds with leading institutions of higher education and further opportunities,” according to its website. “... QuestBridge aims to increase the percentage of low-income students attending the nation’s best universities and the ranks of national leadership itself.”
Christopher first heard of QuestBridge through his older sister, Jennifer, currently a student at the University of Northwestern in St. Paul. A WHS teacher had recommended it to her, and although Jennifer didn’t end up utilizing QuestBridge for her own college pursuit, Christopher did. He fit the criteria: a high-achieving student near the top of his class; high scores on SAT/ACT tests; met household income guidelines; and involvement  in leadership or community activities. Additionally, Christopher and his sister are the first generation in their family to attend college.
“My mom, Blanca Mayorga, she’s from Mexico and came here in 1994ish,” explained Christopher about his single-parent family circumstances.
QuestBridge works with 37 partner schools - both Ivy League universities and smaller liberal arts colleges that have highly touted programs - located across the country. It facilitates student visits to the participating colleges and matches students to institutions that meet their needs.
After visiting several colleges last year, Christopher was notified that he was a finalist and was able to see all his QuestBridge college options in January. Among his choices were Amherst College in Massachusetts, Bowdoin College in Maine, Tufts University in Massachusetts, as well as Northwestern and Haverford.
“(The college visits) opened my eyes to the smaller colleges, and what they have to offer,” said Christopher. “I just visited Haverford, which is outside of Philadelphia. It’s really small - 1,200 students - but the campus is really spread out and really beautiful. And they have an honor code, not just in academics, but in social activities, too, so it’s really a student-run campus.”
Based on that visit - as well as a trip to Northwestern accompanied by his mom, Christopher has decided one of those two will be his ultimate destination come fall.
“Northwestern is a bigger university, but with smaller colleges,” Christopher described. “I’ve been accepted to the school of Education and Social Policy, which is the smallest school at Northwestern, so that would be a nice balance of being at a bigger university but with smaller classes.”
While he continues to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of either locale, Christopher is also winding up his career at Worthington High. Participating in the Post-Secondary Education Option (PSEO) program, he currently divides his time between the WHS and Minnesota West campuses. PSEO allows him to earn college credit while still in high school.
“During my first two years, I took AP (Advanced Placement) honors classes,” Christopher said. “Both my junior year and this year I took advantage of PSEO to take some general classes, such as Western Civilization and Composition.”
He also took a college Introduction to Sociology class - a topic he found so interesting that it became his planned course of higher education study.
“Ever since then, when somebody asks what my major is going to be, I tell them sociology,” Christopher said, adding that he’s also open to other disciplines within that general category.
His favorite class at WHS was AP History, but he also discovered other interests such as geography, statistics and literature. Science, however, is not Christopher’s cup of tea, but he still has great respect for the subject.
When he entered high school as a freshman, Christopher chose to get involved in BPA - Business Professionals of America - an extracurricular activity that focuses on business career-based activities.
“I thought it would be interesting, and there was a category, digital media production, in which I had an interest,” Christopher explained.
That interest paid off, as Christopher advanced, as a freshman, first to the regional and state conferences, and then on to the national competition in Orlando, Fla.
“I was lucky to have that experience at that early stage,” he reflected. “As a sophomore, I qualified as well and went to Indianapolis. As a junior, I didn’t qualify, but I did again this year as a senior, in Boston, Mass. I also took part in leadership roles - was the chapter secretary as a sophomore and junior, and this year I’m chapter president. This year I added extemporaneous speech, where you have to make up a speech on the spot, and that’s what I qualified for.”
That Christopher would excel in a speech category is not surprising, as speech is his other major extracurricular activity. He joined the speech team also as a freshman.
“You have to pick a category - and this shows how indecisive I am - I did a different one every year,” he said. “First I did discussion, then original oratory, extemporaneous speaking, and this year, great speeches. I just realized that there was something to learn from all of them.”
But Christopher especially enjoyed the original oratory category, in which the students write their own persuasive speech.
“It’s funny how relative it becomes. The topic was regret, and my speech was on how we shouldn’t beat ourselves up over regrets, not beat ourselves up over the past,” he noted. “It comes from my interest in history, and it brought in a lot of examples from different disciplines.”
As a senior, Christopher was one of three speech captains, who help out with the younger participants.
Another activity that has influenced Christopher’s high school experience and plans for the future is the Be the Change leadership program, which began as a four-week summer experience and continued throughout the school year.
“I found it to be a transformative experience,” he explained. “It opened up a few doors. I went to New York City for the People’s Climate March in 2014 and Voices for Racial Justice in Minneapolis. It just opened my eyes to so much that’s out there, how much it’s shaped me.”
Because of his own ethnicity, Christopher is particularly interested in issues of racial justice - most especially education equity. Through the Nobles County Integration Collaborative, he was a student representative for the Minnesota Equity Partnership and was one of the speakers at a summit last fall that summarized the group’s findings.
Now, Christopher looks forward to seeing what can be accomplished at the college level.
“I had fun in high school, but I’m excited to see what else I can do,” he said. “I think college will have some interesting opportunities. Having lived in a small town my whole life, I’m interested to see what opportunity I can find in a bigger city.”
Christopher knows there are some things he will miss about Worthington - the community he found at WHS, the diversity and meeting people from different backgrounds, as well as the teachers who have helped forge the person he has become.
“It’s really important to me, later in my life, to help people who come from disadvantaged groups, because I was one, and that will always be with me,” Christopher said, emphasizing that he wants to be a role model to students in similar circumstances. “I hope that in the coming years there are more people like me.”
Someday, Christopher envisions himself working for some sort of a non-profit group or perhaps consulting for such an organization. But right now, he knows his future career hinges on a very important decision - his college choice, which needs to be made by May 1.
“They both have great things academically,” he said about his two choices. “It comes down to where I see myself fitting in socially. They’re very different. I feel like I’ll notice some small reservations or things that attract me, and they’ll build up to me making a decision.”

Mayorga 2
Christopher Mayorga leans against the WHS concession stand, in which he often works during athletic games and other special events as part of his BPA involvement. (Beth Rickers/Daily Globe)

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