Having moved from Mexico to Ohio at the age of 5, Amanda Martinez Moreno found herself in a kindergarten classroom. "Hello, my name is Amanda," and "I like corn," were the only two phrases she mastered in English, and her nerves got the best of her. "On my first day, I got so nervous and I said, 'My name is corn,'" laughed Amanda. That childhood moment, and many others, has come full circle as she celebrates being named Canterbury School's National Hispanic Recognition Program Scholar by the College Board.
Each year, the National Hispanic Recognition Program recognizes about 5,000 of the 250,000 Hispanic/Latino juniors who take the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT®). Applicants must be at least one-quarter Hispanic/Latino, achieve the minimum required PSAT/NMSQT Selection Index score, and earn a cumulative GPA of 3.5 or higher by the middle of their junior year.
"My parents are beyond proud, and it's great to have their support!" said Amanda. "They sent the news to my family in Mexico. I feel blessed to have the opportunities we do and to be able to openly celebrate my culture. My culture is unique because it's a collage of everything, but each person has a unique culture that should be celebrated. My parents taught me to always have an open mind and to welcome new perspectives."
When Amanda was in Grade 7 at Canterbury, the idea of welcoming and celebrating different cultures was at the forefront of her education. Her family learned that her father's job would relocate them once again. This time, they would be moving to Switzerland. The move was unexpected for Amanda, but she was excited for a new adventure - especially because she was fluent in two languages.
"I spoke two languages, English and Spanish, so I felt comfortable trying a different culture," said Amanda. "But when I got there, most people spoke three or four languages!"
Amanda and her brothers enrolled in International School of Zug and Luzern in Switzerland. According to Amanda, at least one-third of the student body changed every year. Not only was the school accustomed to welcoming new families, it looked at the bigger picture of what "home" truly means.
"I remember a conversation about the question, 'What do you think is home?' For me, I always tried to find a balance between my Mexican culture and wherever I was living. In Switzerland, I learned that home is my family, and we can make any place our home. The people make the place."
Moving to Switzerland opened Amanda's eyes to explore new horizons, cultures, and people. So, she began studying additional languages. Amanda lived in Switzerland through Grade 9, and she and her family moved back to Fort Wayne and to Canterbury for her sophomore year. Upon her return, Amanda's life work started to become clear. She accelerated to French 4 and finished AP French a year early. In addition, she continued to take German classes at Purdue University Fort Wayne. Little did she know that a mission trip to Haiti would connect the dots.
During a summer internship with Mission of Hope Haiti, Amanda worked with medical and youth teams in Haiti, where she supported clean water initiatives, provided hygiene lessons, and worked at a mobile clinic.
"It was really sad to see people live in horrible conditions that were so very life threatening," said Amanda. "That completely changed my perspective on what I should do with my life. Haiti really opened my eyes that there is a big need in this world to help others. If you can alleviate suffering, why not do it?"
Amanda aims to double major in world languages and medicine in college and hopes to work for Doctors Without Borders. She is applying to University of Chicago, Stanford University, Vanderbilt University, Middlebury College, and Indiana University. Regardless of where she travels next, she knows what home means to her. It's not the place; it's the people.