April 20, 2017. Roswell, GA. The bar for acceptance into Harvard University is high, but it did not include a private school education for two Centennial High School students. Karla Chávez-Espinosa and Tania Dominguez-Rangel were both recently admitted to Harvard University after completing their education in the Centennial Cluster of Schools from K-12. Karla attended Hillside Elementary, while Tania started at Esther Jackson Elementary. The pair met at Holcomb Bridge Middle School and are finishing their high school years together at Centennial.

This tale of two students, two friends, and two dreams is inspirational for several reasons. Both young ladies immigrated to America and learned English in their elementary ESOL programs, eventually testing out and heading into Honors and AP courses. They excelled in the opportunities offered through the world-class education and experience they received in the Centennial Cluster of Schools.

The path was not always easy, but their tenacity, dedication and service work has paved the way. They overcame the initial language barrier—and several others as well. When asked what she would tell other students learning English for the first time, Tania said, “Do not be afraid to try something new and do not be intimidated by any label, stereotype or standard set for you because of where you come from or your ability to speak English. You can do anything you set your mind to and anything you work hard for. There may be times that you will fail or be faced with challenges, but never let that stop you from continuing to try to reach your goals.”

While it may seem hard to believe, in 2015-2016, 1 out of every 23 Hispanic students in Georgia dropped out of high school. Hispanics had the highest percentage of dropouts in the entire state. Every year, the cycle of drop outs continues. Karla and Tania are determined to help break this cycle.

Both have served other students with tutoring assistance and help applying for college and scholarships, and they serve as interpreters at local churches and schools. They are also leaders of Hispanic Organization Promoting Education (HoPE), an organization dedicated to promoting the importance of a college education to Latino students.

In addition to their hard work and character, what helped these girls succeed? Tania attributes the model set by and sacrifice of her family for her success. “My family has always inspired me to further my education and supported me in everything I’ve done. They have shown me the model that I needed to set for my two younger siblings.”

Karla, who is a member of the Centennial Model UN team that won the highest award at the New York conference, credits her teachers for sparking her love of learning. “Every social studies teacher that I have ever had inspired me to continue learning and challenged me to think beyond the classroom—from my 7th grade teacher and Model UN sponsor Mrs. Heath, to Dr. Medwed and Mr. Hoge at Centennial. I am truly thankful to them all. Once you are willing to learn, there is so much available to every student. I hope they will take advantage of it!”

These students are excited about their future—and taking the next step together. Tania plans on studying languages, while Karla will major in international relations, with a focus on Latin America.

Principal Kibbey Crumbley is proud of both girls and the community of educators. A recent note to her team said it all: “Congratulations to all faculty past and present who played a role in making these young ladies’ college dreams a reality! And congratulations to Karla and Tania – their best days are indeed AHEAD!!”

Centennial High School is a 21st century learning community providing a high quality, innovative educational experience for all students to be college and career ready. Located at 9310 Scott Road in Roswell, Georgia, the school has been ranked as one of America’s best high schools by The Washington Post, US News and World Report, and Atlanta Magazine. Centennial is also as a leader within the Fulton County Charter System.

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