Gomez said the seventh grade was where she began to feel overwhelmed by her home environment to the point it affected her school work as well as her personal life. Having to deal with abuse from her parents left her an outcast from her family and learning to fend for herself since age 13.
“I hit rock bottom my seventh grade year in middle school,” Gomez said. “I didn’t care for anything and I was to the point where I thought ‘my life sucks and it is always going to suck.’”
Gomez said her grades dropped quickly to the D and F ranges and she wore the truancy line very thin before an older cousin attempted to talk some sense into her.
“She pretty much told me there is no point in throwing your life away for your parents and giving them that satisfaction when it is really your life,” Gomez said. “I started thinking about it and hanging out with her and it must have worked because after that I started getting straight A’s, making the Honor Roll, I never missed a day of school and it was just a totally different view.”
Gomez transferred from Sparks High to Spanish Springs High in the second semester of her junior year and has been maintaining her class schedule while balancing her job at Burger King. She was recently named one of five recipients of the Most Improved Student Award, a scholarship handed out by the Reno South Rotary Club.
Scholarship nominees from each high school, a male and a female, were chosen before being trimmed to a top 10 and finally to the final five, who presented a speech to seal their fates.
“At first, I thought the scholarship was for improving your grades, but I have had pretty good grades since middle school so I didn’t really understand,” she said with a laugh. “Then later I found out it was more on a personal basis and the troubles you have had in your life, what you have had overcome to graduate high school.
"It definitely feels good because it is nice to keep getting reminded while you are still doing well that you did have to go through some stuff that average kids either don’t have to go through or who have been hurt or held down by it. I have managed to just keep going and not fall down. I have had my trips here and there, just like anyone, but at least I am still going.”
School and work are not the only tasks written in Gomez’s schedule. She is also an avid volunteer in Hungry Valley helping elderly citizens with daily chores and offering them friendly company. Gomez said her volunteering began as a scapegoat to get out of her house with a “legitimate excuse,” but it was not long before she found helping others to be very rewarding.
“I enjoy, in my free time, being able to help others,” Gomez said. “If I can help and I can do something to change your life then I would be happy to, especially elders who don’t really have anybody and seem to be alone. I understand that and I like to keep them company. I can see them go from being depressed or grouchy to being really happy and have a complete change of attitude.
“People always perceive the elderly as being rude or mean but they are just lonely and you have to give them love. Then you will see what is behind all of it. Personally, it is rewarding to see their smiles.”
Gomez said she will enter a summer program at Truckee Meadows Community College this summer in preparation for her first semester in the fall. The program is designed to boost Accuplacer scores and give her a chance to choose her classes ahead of others.
Though she has not completely committed to a career path, she said studying dental practices is high on her list of choices. She also said managing her own business or becoming a lawyer are other options she would pursue if dental medicine does not work out.
As she prepares to graduate this spring, Gomez said in reflection of the short years she has spent in high school, she found growing up at an accelerated pace worked to her advantage.
“All my obstacles I had to go through made me stronger and gave me more inspiration and motivation to do well. I saw school as my only way out,” she said. “I matured really really young and with that I have a whole different view. I look at myself and think ‘whoa.’ I don’t look at myself as I was a couple years ago and I don’t see anything like that anymore.
“I definitely matured and changed from looking at life and different things from different perspectives, even smaller things that can really add up to greater value that some people sort of brush off. They think it doesn’t matter, but it does.”