“I want to be able to go to other parts of the world and transmit my ideas and my views, and I cannot do that properly if I do not speak the language,” the 16-year-old junior said. “I think language is alive and when you transmit it to someone you tell them about you.
“I think knowing another language gives you more options when telling someone about yourself and how you feel. It is not just a career path, but emotionally you can express yourself more with more languages. Culturally, it is wonderful to learn.”
The language will not be her only weapon when the time comes to travel the world. Valadez said she wants to tackle environmental problems internationally by studying environmental science. She cites her time in Sparks High’s Environmental Club as the catalyst for her interest.
“I usually don’t think of teenagers worrying about carbon emissions or recycling, but that definitely opened my mind,” she said. “At first I wasn’t comfortable knowing that, but now I feel that in my second year in the club it has helped me mature as a citizen.”
Valadez has been a key member of the team that has planted a school garden for students and teachers, as well as building a greenhouse on campus. She called it the “eco-friendly side of Sparks.”
Valadez works to remain active in several clubs on campus while balancing her full course load of Advanced Placement classes, including two foreign languages. She also recently finished up her tennis season and although it was her first year in the sport, she feels it paid major dividends in her life.
“It had this connection with your teammates. I usually don’t work with teammates,” Valadez said. “When we get assigned group projects I usually work alone because that is how I work best. But with tennis, you are alone and scared but having doubles gave you support.
Tennis is thought to be a solitary sport, but it is not like that at all. It really has a group spirit here much like football or soccer.”
Valadez was recently nominated by her tennis coach as Student of the Month at Sparks High. She was one of four girls selected and Valadez said the group of girls represents an important part of the high school.
“We are really diverse and I think we represent a core of Sparks that perhaps gets overseen by other schools,” she said.
Valadez spent her sophomore year in Elk Grove, Calif. where her high school had a very different look than ‘The Brickhouse.’ She said she would not trade her days at Sparks High for any other school.
“If I had to stay in one high school forever I would choose this one and never leave,” she said. “I think we are all sort of close so it forms a community, and I think a lot of pride comes with that.
“I feel we come from every different background here and every different social class, and I think it binds us together.”
Valadez said Sparks will always feel like her home and she hopes to take her language and environmental science studies to the University of Nevada, Reno upon graduation.