SOUTHERN LEE HIGH SCHOOL: Experience has taught Angie Estevez anything is possible

Jun. 05, 2013 @ 06:06 PM

When Angie Estevez was in kindergarten, a fellow classmate said something that remained with her throughout her life. He called her stupid.

His comments spurred the young girl — and recent immigrant to the United States from Colombia — into action.

"That really motivated me to show them that I am more than what they think I am," said the now 17-year-old Southern Lee High School senior. "I really wanted to show people that just because you come from somewhere else and you don't understand, it doesn't mean you can't overcome that and be successful."

Estevez will join her fellow seniors Friday for their high school graduation, and in the fall, she'll begin her freshman year at Cornell University.

Her parents, Alirio and Mary, moved to Sanford to teach English as a Second Language for a three-year program when Estevez was 5. They are both still teachers within the Lee County School System.

"I had no idea what was going on," Estevez said. "All I knew is that I was told to pack my bags."

Moving to a new country was daunting, she said, especially not knowing the language. Her classmates mistook her quiet nature for being unintelligent, she said.

"I really wanted to learn and understand," Estevez said. "Now I speak English perfectly fine, and in third grade, I was in Academically and Intelligently Gifted classes and out of ESL."

Her family was granted an extension to stay in Sanford and, some years later, were granted residency. They are in the middle of applying for their citizenship, she said. Estevez has been back to Colombia to visit family but said she considers herself to be American.

"Sometimes the two cultures clash in my brain," she said. "There is my Hispanic side, who loves the spicy food my mom makes and loves to speak Spanish, and the American side, who is super interested in American politics and wants to know more."

At Cornell, Estevez said she plans to study within the School of Industrial and Labor Relations. Throughout  high school, she said she's always had an interest in social studies and history, and she plans to channel that energy within her major.

"I am really excited — terrified, but excited and hoping to see what the future holds," she said.

She was the goalkeeper for the varsity soccer team at Southern Lee and involved with the school's marching band. Both helped her branch out, make friends and gain leadership skills, she said.

Estevez said she always had her heart set on attending the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, but Cornell's program caught her eye and her direction changed. She said rising seniors should be prepared for an intense college admission process, adding that she hopes Hispanic students also know they can better themselves and not stick to a predetermined path.

"I spent my life thinking I was not capable because of my background," she said. "I want these kids to know they can do it and it's possible. It's not just for the rich and famous, you can do it."