Experience caring for her three younger siblings, an interest in science and a passion for helping others combined to lead Sbeyde Herrera Gonzalez to pursue a career as a pediatrician.
Herrera Gonzalez graduated from Mountain View High School last week and is headed to San Jose State University, where she plans to major in biochemistry. From there, she intends to go to medical school.
“Looking after (my siblings) has definitely helped me develop patience and a love for kids,” Herrera Gonzalez said. “I think being a pediatrician combines my interest in medicine and my ability to get along with kids.”
Becoming a doctor will be academically rigorous, but Mountain View High teacher Kristin Cardenas said she has seen how Herrera Gonzalez is willing to put herself out there, despite having a naturally shy personality.
“She was always willing to do what it takes to succeed in her classes, and be a good daughter and sister and role model for the younger people in her family,” Cardenas said. “It’s that quiet leadership that was really impressive about her.”
Cardenas was Herrera Gonzalez’s AVID teacher at Mountain View High. AVID, or Advancement Via Individual Determination, is a program that aims to prepare students, many of whom are the first in their family to attend college, for success at four-year universities.
Herrera Gonzalez is the first person in her family to graduate from high school. Her parents both immigrated to the United States from Mexico before she was born, and each has a roughly middle school education. Herrera Gonzalez said she wants to make her parents proud after seeing all their hard work and sacrifices.
“They left their entire family back in Mexico to be here,” she said. “I think the least I could do is take advantage of all of the opportunities given to me here, in such a successful area, and make the most of it and go to college.”
Throughout high school, Herrera Gonzalez said she tried to take advantage of the resources available to her, such as being part of AVID. Through the program, Herrera Gonzalez received guidance on navigating high school, as well as applying for college. She credits AVID with helping her push herself academically and get more involved in her classes.
“In the classroom, I was able to raise my hand more and participate more, or reach out to teachers after class, which is something I never did before,” she said.
To further her goal of becoming a pediatrician, Herrera Gonzalez enrolled in more challenging science courses at Mountain View High, like AP Biology. She also took part in extracurricular activities and electives, like a Mexican folklorico dance class, which she said she enjoyed both for the dancing itself and because it helped her feel connected to her Mexican heritage.
When the pandemic hit, Herrera Gonzalez’s family faced disruptions and financial challenges. Her father, who works at a grocery store, was able to keep his job, but her mother worked at a hotel and got her hours cut as travel plummeted. The family had depended on that income and relied on programs that provided assistance with food to fill in the gap.
For her part, Herrera Gonzalez tried to make sure her 10-year-old brother was focusing during his online classes, and kept an eye on her 5-year-old sister, who wasn’t in preschool because of the pandemic. Her 15-year-old sister also helped watch the two younger siblings.
Because of the child care responsibilities, Herrera Gonzalez said she had to make sure to carefully manage her time, either doing her homework right after a class ended or at night when her mom got home.
Cardenas said she wants Herrera Gonzalez to know that her resiliency during the pandemic hasn’t gone unnoticed, especially how she stayed calm during distance learning and succeeded in her classes.
“That says so much about her, and her drive and her determination,” Cardenas said. “It just says a lot about her character – I’m immensely proud of her.”