Yaliana Garcia, 19, moved to Polk County from Puerto Rico at the end of her junior year of high school. Even with such a short time here, she looks back at Bartow High School and its teachers as the reason she’s pursuing her dream to become a doctor.

“I did not have the opportunity to go through all the courses that other students did, but I can say that the education was excellent. Bartow High School had and still has incredibly valuable teachers who impacted my learning experience and my personal life,” said Garcia.

“Most of my classes were honors and the curriculum for math (algebra II and pre-calculus), science (chemistry and anatomy and physiology), English and many more were challenging and taught very well. I am sure that now it will probably be even better.”

Because her mother is a teacher at Bartow High, Garcia still keeps up with the school system. “I have seen the changes in the curriculum and how hard the School Board has been working to make sure that their students receive the best education possible.”

Garcia describes herself as an overachiever but said some courses got the best of her.

“I loved being challenged by my teachers, and they definitely pushed me to do better every single time,” she said. “Thanks to my learning experience in the classrooms, I was able to graduate with a 4.0-plus GPA and go to the school of my dreams.”

She graduated from high school in 2016 and is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in biology and a minor in chemistry on a pre-med track at Southeastern University in Lakeland.

Garcia said one of the science classes she took in high school prepared her for SEU.

“That class changed my life and gave me the bases for my anatomy and physiology class as a pre-med student.”

This summer, Garcia will be studying to take the MCAT, applying to medical schools and shadowing doctors.

“[This fall,] I will be part of the neuroscience research team at SEU and present my Capstone project.,” she said.

Garcia is on track to graduate in Spring 2020, after she plans to start medical school to pursue her Doctor of Medicine or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine, specializing in emergency medicine and trauma.

She’d like to stay in Polk County, but that depends on where she attends medical school. She plans to apply to most Florida state schools, the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine in Pennsylvania, as well as some in Puerto Rico and possibly the Caribbean. If she does not stay in Polk County for school, she can see herself returning to practice.

For now, though, she’s excited about doing research and preparing for graduation.

“The scariest thing is definitely the uncertainty of whether or not I will be accepted into medical school for next year and where,” Garcia said. “But I am ready to conquer whatever is coming.”