Yvette Huizar, a 23-year-old Ceres High School graduate, is determined to achieve her educational and career goals - while encouraging others to "set the bar high for themselves."
Now living in Sacramento, Huizar has spent the last year gaining experience as she awaited acceptance into the Cornell University School of Veterinary Medicine in Ithaca, New York this fall.
"Cornell is number two veterinary university in the country," said Huizar. "It's really prestigious. It's an Ivy League school and not very many people get in so I'm shocked."
Born in Modesto, Yvette lived in Ceres her entire life, attending Carroll Fowler Elementary and Mae Hensley Junior High School before graduating Ceres High School in 2011. She earned a degree in Molecular Environmental Biology with an emphasis on animal behavior from U.C. Berkeley in May 2015.
"It was pretty challenging but I got through that."
Huizar said she has known since high school that she wanted to be a veterinarian and the degree fit in well with that goal since Berkeley does not offer animal sciences.
After graduation she started working at a veterinary hospital in Oakland. She decided to move in with her mother in Sacramento to save money as she prepared to apply to Cornell. Yvette is currently working at VCA Greenhaven Pocket Animal Hospital.
Her mother, Ruby Haro, has also been a source of inspiration as she seeks to earn her bachelor's degree in finance from Sacramento State at age 53.
While at Ceres High, Huizar said she wasn't sure on her educational direction.
"This doesn't speak too well about Ceres High but I'm just going to say it anyway. I think that they don't have that high of an expectation for us. I had a counselor and everything and whenever we talked about college she was always, ‘You most likely won't get into a U.C. school.' I feel like we need to be shown before that, yeah, you can go to a UC school or go to an Ivy League school if you put in the work."
Through social media Yvette said she's been contacted by a number of younger CHS classmates seeking information on how to get into the UC system or how to pass courses if they are there.
"People have been reaching out to me that I went to high school with saying, ‘Even though we're not very close now, I've been admiring you from afar and you definitely broke the stereotypes from people from Ceres and Latinos in general because the percentage of Latinos going to college is not as high as other ethnicities.'"
She hopes a side benefit to her own success is showing others at CHS that it can be done.
"There is a need to motivate and encourage more high school students to attend college and beyond and I strongly believe my story can help do that. As a high school student I know it was vital to my success knowing that others like me were succeeding at the university level but I never thought it would be possible that I'd be obtaining a doctorate degree from an Ivy League university. I simply want to show the youth in Ceres that it is absolutely possible."
She also believes in the power in finding mentors in the field of pursuit. Without someone to guide, she said, "it can be difficult to succeed in competitive fields. I know because I tried doing it alone. Especially as a first generation college student, your family can't necessarily advise you on writing your college essay, applying for grad school, or taking courses for entrance exams, and even networking. Having the perspective of someone who has been through it can go a long way."
Yvette said she loves working with animals and said animals tend to add so much to the human race.
"A lot of people get overwhelmed with life ... and animals make people really happy, whether it's just having a pet cat or a pet dog."
She relayed how she took a rescue kitten to a friend who was suffering from depression and needed companionship.
Huizar said once she becomes a veterinarian she wants to use social media to help people understand that animals need to be cared for better.
"I'm more familiar with the Latino community and I've seen family members who have pets and they don't really see it as something they need to invest in. They're just like, ‘Oh it's just a dog, it's just a cat.' They're living animals and they need healthcare and they need to be examined, have bloodwork, and have urinalysis and people don't think about this is in the long term. They're not going to be a healthy pup forever. At some point down the line they're going to need x-rays that may cost $400 and some people aren't prepared to pay those costs so instead of being able to provide x-rays they're like ‘I'm just going to euthanize because I can't afford that.' And that's not really fair to the animal either."
Yvette's interests in animals are varied because of her different experiences. She has volunteered pull horses at UC Davis but mostly has small animal experience.
"Recently I thought I wanted to specialize in radiology, which would be like an ultrasound specialist or something like that so I think that's where I want to go but time will tell."
She also volunteers at the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito caring for rescued seals and sea lions.