Polk County Public School grad and first generation college student inspired by mothers’ enjoyment of numbers and favorite high school class – Algebra.

“When my mother was younger, her dream job in Mexico was to be an accountant for a big company,” said Jacquelin Flores, 19. “Although my mother could not continue her education, I am now hoping to carry out her dream and repay my parents for what they did when they left it all behind.”

She’s proud of her parents and is grateful for their move to the United States, which allowed her to attend Mulberry Middle and Mulberry High schools. Flores just completed her first semester at the University of South Florida, where she is studying to become an accountant, and is being profiled as part of an ongoing series on Polk students studying STEM.

Flores appreciates the advice Mulberry High’s Migrant Education advocate Dani Higgins offered: Do not settle.

“Ms. Higgins always pushed me to do my best, always pushed me to take the higher-level classes, always pushed me to get out of my shell, and always pushed me to try what I thought I could not do.”

Polk County Schools

Flores describes her education in Polk County as inclusive and thoughtful.

“Teachers and school staff always paid close attention to the needs of individual students and made sure they were able to finish their tasks with the resources necessary,” said Flores, who graduated from Mulberry High in 2019.

“There were many teachers in my high school who were very involved in helping their students, whether it be from offering extra after school tutoring or merely lending a book to a student who could not afford it.”

She said her middle school teachers introduced students to qualities that would get them far in life, like perseverance and diligence.

“[They] did a great job in instilling these qualities in us, making sure we didn’t give up when the lectures got hard and prepared us by making sure we had our assignments turned in by deadlines, knowing we were all responsible for our own work.”

Although Mulberry offered quite a few advanced placement courses, they don’t offer enough to allow students to maintain a competitive GPA, she said. Because she took almost all the AP and dual-enrollment classes offered by the end of her junior year, she had to take online courses through Florida Virtual School, Polk State College and Southeastern University.

“Although I was easily able to access these courses through my study hall classes, I still would’ve preferred that my high school offer a larger variety of AP classes where a teacher was physically present and could help me understand difficult topics.”

The Future

Taking college classes while in high school prepared her for USF because she knew the amount of work she would have to tackle, she said. She chose USF because she wanted to attend a big university that offered a variety of clubs to join and places where she could volunteer.

After graduation, she hopes to work for a big company, then start her own business. She wants to return to Polk County to work and give back to her community, especially to the city of Mulberry, she said.

“I come from a migrant, low-income family, so getting to college was not an easy journey,” Flores said. “I hope to inspire at least one other person who is currently debating the idea of whether they can pursue a college education or not and let them know that they are capable!”