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Inspired to do better than their parents
4.28 - The magic number for Esteban de la Torre.

A grade point average that high has earned him the honor of being the 2012 Ceres High School class valedictorian.

Right behind him, just a little under at 4.27, is salutatorian Lexa Buerer.

Esteban said he got there by "a lot of hard work" and a lot of Advanced Placement (AP) classes.

"To me, it doesn't seem as hard as long as you're not lazy," he said. "This year I am taking four and last year I took three. And since freshman year I've been taking advanced classes."

Principal Linda Stubbs said this is probably the closest that the top two students have come in GPAs.

De la Torre and Buerer always had a friendly rivalry going to see who would be at the top. For a while Esteban was haunted by a B grade in AP U.S. History. By passing a test the teacher promised to raise grades. "That saved me," he admits.

"It's still recognition for all the hard work we've done," said Lexa of being in second place. She took seven AP classes in her high school career.

"I think everybody is smart in their own way," said Lexa. "Everyone could do it if they just didn't slack off. It's not like we're different."

Lexa, 18, is headed to the University of the Pacific in Stockton - where tuition runs $55,000 a year - to study law. Her parents, Curtis and Silvia Buerer, are helping her out but neither student landed a full-ride scholarship from their exceptional grades.

"I've wanted to a be a lawyer as far back as I can remember," said Lexa. "I've never wanted to do anything else and my parents have always encourage me to do whatever I wanted to do."

Her ultimate dream would be to become a supreme court as a justice. She would be content as a corporate lawyer in Southern California, such as in Santa Barbara.

Esteban, 17, who is headed to the University of California at Davis to study computer science, admits that for many years he didn't know the direction he wanted to take in life.

"I believe my interests came barely this year because I had no idea what I was going to do until college applications started coming," said de la Torre. "I decided that I love doing math and technology so I might as well become a computer science (major) or any other kind of engineer."

He wants to impact society in a positive way while being happy doing it.

Getting to the top of the class was not without some sacrifice. Esteban said he would do his club and sports commitments and then find himself doing homework as late as 9 and 10 p.m. "I wouldn't really sleep until I finished my homework," he noted.

"I like to think I'm a good time manager because I am involved in nine clubs on campus," said Lexa. "And we have like a lot of Saturdays that we go and volunteer at places. I do my homework right away and use the rest of my time to dedicate to other things. I don't think I've really sacrificed a lot of things because if I'm volunteering and giving back to the community it's a good thing."

Among her community projects Lexa worked as a CSF member to give food baskets to poor families and as a member of the "S" Club helped with the Soroptimist Giving Tree project at the Vintage Faire Mall and assisted at the annual Soroptimist Club Ice Cream Social at the Daniel Whitmore Home.

De la Torre has been involved in Trio Upward Bound program which helps the first generation from poor families prepare for college. That meant taking classes every other week at Modesto Junior College and six weeks of classes during the summer.

"In that program we also got to visit a lot of colleges. I've seen most of the UC's through that program. I've decided which ones I've liked and which ones I don't."

Throughout the Upward Bound program gave back to others by mentoring 4- to 10-year-olds in reading and math at the Red Shield Salvation Army Center in south Modesto. That was a great fit for Esteban because he said math gives him a "calm."

Both de la Torre and Buerer say they couldn't have done it without their parents being strong advocates and supporters.

Esteban was born in Mexico to Jesus and Yesenia de la Torre and came to San Fernando when he was one. They later moved to Modesto and the Ceres area.

For a time he lived in a poor neighborhood in West Modesto where he was determined not to grow up in such an environment.

"I want to break the cycle and have a stable foundation for my future family," he said.

Lexa's mother came to the United States from Mexico with eight siblings to create a better life.

"My mom has kind of instilled in me the values to be motivated and driven to do something good with my life so I can not be in the same situation she was in," said Lexa. "It's like you always want your kids to do better than you."