First-generation Aberdeen student nominated for $3,000 scholarship

Cristal Ramirez Garcia is a young, talented high school student who wants to be an elementary school teacher one day. So far, through hard work and a lot of support, she has a good head start for a promising career.

The city of Aberdeen selected Garcia, a senior at Aberdeen High School (AHS), as the city’s nominee for the Association of Washington Cities (AWC) Center for Quality Communities scholarship (CQC).

“I appreciate being nominated,” Garcia said. “To be honest, I didn’t really expect this but I’m really happy. Hopefully I get chosen in the finals to be able to pursue education, elementary education. But if I don’t win, I’m still glad I got nominated by the city. I guess it’s a pretty big deal for me.”

The scholarship is available statewide for high school seniors who are “active in leadership in their city government, community, or school and plan to pursue post-secondary education in fall 2024,” according to the city’s news release.

“Each city can submit one nominee they believe, not only meets the criteria for the scholarship, but also demonstrates a strong academic history, shows a commitment to our community through service and volunteerism and exhibits a desire to use their college degree to make their community and the world a better place,” the release states.

From the pool of students chosen, the AWC CQC Scholarship Selection Committee will select three winners of the $3,000 scholarship.

Garcia said of the schools where she’s been accepted, she wants to attend Western Washington University because they have a great education program.

Garcia is a first generation student whose family immigrated to Aberdeen just before she was born. Then she met the staff at McDermoth Elementary School, where she started school in Grays Harbor County.

“Growing up, I couldn’t speak English because my parents were newcomers here in Aberdeen,” Garcia said. “I had lots of help from my elementary teachers through the (English Language Learners — ELL) program and all of the extra support I got from them and my elementary school, McDermoth. Those staff members, like my kindergarten teacher, everybody, all of the staff members helped me. Some of them learned Spanish, not just for me, but other kids like me. I really appreciated their help in order for me to learn a new language and being welcomed to their community. I thought that was really great of them. I wanted to be someone like them.”

Garcia spoke about why her family came to Aberdeen. It sounds as though the city has been a real positive for Garcia and her family.

“My parents decided to come here because they didn’t want me living there. They wanted me to have a better place and better education and to have a good career in the future. So that’s why they moved here, in the US, and decided to live in Aberdeen,” Garcia said.

Aaron Roiko, principal at AHS, talked about Garcia. He said she’s “so awesome.”

“Cristal and her sister both are outstanding kids,” Roiko said. “Never a behavior issue here at the high school. Kind of quiet but they carry themselves really well. Cristal’s pursuing a degree in elementary education, so we’re excited about that.”

Roiko, who said he was “super proud” of Cristal, said how she had to overcome a few obstacles.

“I know when they came here, they didn’t have much English and support and those things, but they made no excuses and both have excelled,” Roiko said.

Roiko also commented on AHS getting the chance to nominate young stars like Cristal for the scholarship.

“It just sheds light on the fact Aberdeen has a lot of kids who are capable, good citizens, high character kids,” Roiko said. “We have more Cristals in our building, put it that way, and sometimes people forget that. We’re a larger school for the Harbor — 917 kids, or whatever it is now — that Cristal kind of represents what we want to see in every kid who comes through our doors. The whole staff’s pretty proud of what she’s accomplished.”

Garcia wanted to thank “every teacher” she’s had. But she wanted to highlight John Kranich, who teaches the AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) program, and Ashley Kohlmeier, who is her senior success teacher.

“I appreciate what they have done for me, and I hope to be able to repay them one day,” Garcia wrote in her application.

Beyond the school, she also receives continuous support from her family and she sounded grateful to have that as well.

“My parents help me every day, making sure I go to school and that I have everything I need in order to be successful,” Garcia said. “My parents are really proud of me just to get nominated for the scholarship. They’re really proud and so are my siblings.”

In addition to her several advanced placement classes and “numerous school activities,” in which she’s enrolled, Garcia goes beyond that.

“She is also a tutor through the YMCA where she helps elementary students with their work, a great way to prepare for her future,” the news release stated.

In addition to potentially winning the scholarship, the city will also recognize Garcia this Wednesday at the Aberdeen City Council meeting, where Garcia will meet Mayor Doug Orr.

Ruth Clemens, city administrator, weighed in the school staff for finding such a star candidate.

“Big thanks to Aberdeen High School staff who helped with the recruitment process,” Clemens said. “We are proud that Cristal is the representative nominee from our city.”

Orr also weighed in on the success Garcia has made happen so far.

“Here in Aberdeen, we know what it is like to never give up on a dream,” Orr said. “Our children have learned the resilience and I think Cristal is the perfect example of that.”

Contact Matthew N. Wells at