Pacifica High Sending Three Grads to Harvard, One to MIT

Boys are smiling.
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© John Cressy/OUHSD
© John Cressy/OUHSD
Harvard University is the alma mater of seven U.S. Presidents and a host of current world leaders, including Mexican President Felipe Calderon and United Nations Secretary Ban Ki-moon.

The U.S.’s oldest university – it was founded 140 years before the Declaration of Independence, in 1636 – also has produced a countless number of world-renowned scientists, business leaders, educators, writers, musicians, writers and actors. Seventy-five Nobel Prize winners have been affiliated with Harvard and since 1974. Nineteen Nobel Prize winners and 15 Pulitzer Prize winners have served on the Ivy League school’s faculty.

Year-in and year-out, Harvard also ranks among the world’s top universities. Among four-year schools in the U.S., it also is pickiest: Only seven out of 100 students who apply get in.

So, what are the odds of four graduating seniors from the same high school being accepted by Harvard in the same year? It would probably take a Harvard-trained mathematician to come up with a figure.

“It’s unprecedented, as far as I am aware,” Pacifica High Principal Bill Dabbs said, “but these are brilliant young men.”

The brilliant young men are Aaron Cruz, Carlos Aldrete, Francisco Navarette and Bryant Jones.

While the first three are definitely in, Jones is on Harvard’s waiting list. He’ll know by June whether he gets to join his friends back East this fall. If not, Jones will enroll at the University of California at Berkeley and major in political science.

And while Cruz has been accepted by Harvard, he has chosen to attend another Boston-area university of note – the Massachusetts Institute of Technology – where he will study electrical engineering and business.

As for the other two Pacifica High scholars, Harvard’s still their school. Aldrete will major in biological sciences and Navarette will study political science.

All four fell in love with the Harvard campus – and Boston, in general – when they joined Pacifica High Spanish teacher Lupe Murillo, whose daughter attends Harvard, on a four-day visit last winter. The trip also introduced the lifelong Oxnard residents to something else they were unfamiliar with – snow.

“When we left the Boston airport, it was on the ground,” Cruz recounted. “So there was a big snow fight right away.”

“It’s going to be a big adjustment for them,” Dabbs said. “It’s going to be a whole new environment for them, and I’m proud of the fact that they are taking on this challenge and that they did everything necessary to prepare for it.”

All four are graduating with grade-point averages of 4.3 or higher, and all were involved in a number of extra-curricular activities on campus, including MESA – the Math, Engineering and Science Achievement Club.

Cruz is this year’s Associated Student Body President as well as a member of the school’s basketball team and jazz band. He also works part-time as a disc jockey and often played music in the Pacifica High quad during lunch. Cruz wants to own a business in the music field.

Jones, who wants a career in politics, served as the Oxnard Union High School District’s student board representative. He also played on Pacifica High’s basketball and golf teams, was a four-year member of the Chess Club, wrote for school newspaper and also served as a news anchor on the “Triton Talk” TV show.

Like Jones, Aldrete is a “Triton Talk” news anchor, is president of the Chemistry Club and served as lead prosecutor on the school’s Mock Trial Team. In addition, he was active in the Chess and Key clubs and played on the tennis team. Aldrete, who became the first Pacifica High student in the school’s history to earn a Gates Millennium Scholarship, also enjoys tutoring fellow students and his goal is to be a college professor one day.

Navarette ran track and cross country and is a member of the school’s College Club. He also is a model airplane enthusiast. Navarette is planning a career in corporate law.

Although they enjoyed their years at Pacifica High, all are looking forward to living 3,000 miles from home and attending one of the world’s most prestigious universities in a bustling East coast city.

“We’re excited about experiencing all that Harvard and Boston have to offer,” Jones said.

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