Monday, December 11, 2017
News Roundup

Springstead High valedictorian from Bogotá, Colombia fought through every challenge

SPRING HILL — For the past 10 years, 18-year-old Nathalia Botero has called Spring Hill her "second home."

At the age of 8, Nathalia moved from Bogotá, Colombia, to the United States with her parents, Jose Ernesto Botero, 55, and Luz Stella Ortegon, 43, and her sister, Laura, 12.

"The decision was difficult to make. When we made the decision we saw it as a way our daughters could have a quality education and become competitive in the labor market," her father said. "We left behind our families, our well-being, all in order to ensure the well-being of our daughters."

Nathalia and her family settled into a small apartment with only their suitcases and a mattress, which doubled as a dinner table. Soon after, Nathalia entered J.D. Floyd Elementary School. She did not know English and could not understand her teacher.

Tonight, Nathalia will speak during graduation at Springstead High School as valedictorian of the Class of 2012.

"I worked myself up, and I think it's just very exciting to know that I worked hard to become valedictorian of my class," Nathalia said. "I want to motivate other people."

While being the class' top student was never a specific goal, Nathalia said that being from another country and learning English has made the accomplishment more gratifying. For her and her family, English was the largest barrier they faced in the United States.

"You try to come and get help through English classes, but often things like survival take priority," her father said. "So you get involved with working and you put something as important as language to the side."

He was the treasurer for a university in Bogotá. Now he works as a Walmart warehouse processor.

Nathalia's mother, a cafeteria assistant at J.D. Floyd, said that because she is a better English speaker and her husband is a better reader they "make a good team."

"English hasn't been a barrier for us to support our daughters in their education. We've always been there helping," she said.

Nathalia still remembers the time in her life when she was taking English for Speakers of Other Languages classes.

"You feel different from the other kids because you have to set time aside to learn more, and invest more of your time and energy since you don't know English," she said.

Now, along with being at the top of her class, Nathalia is graduating with an International Baccalaureate diploma that gives her college credit. The diploma required an advanced two-year curriculum and a cumulative final exam her senior year.

Nathalia said she was encouraged by some of her teachers to join the IB program.

"They saw the potential in me, and they thought that I could handle the courses, so I decided to go and challenge myself," she said.

After school, she spent time as part of the Humanities and Etymology Society and as president of the National Honor Society.

Kathleen Long, the adviser to both organizations, said Nathalia is "undaunted" when it comes to her education.

When Nathalia's grandmother passed away in mid January, Long said, she never missed school. Nathalia said that because she could not attend the funeral in Colombia, she relied on her family and friends for encouragement.

"In the industry of education, (Nathalia) was always serious. She strived to bring honor to her parents," Long said. "In spite of adversity she pulls through."

It was through the Spanish Club, Nathalia said, that she was able to connect with students that shared her heritage.

"I wanted to keep parts of my background alive, and then I got to meet some people with the same background," she said. "I know I should always keep those roots alive because it's what defines me in the end."

Despite the distance and her parents' hesitance, Nathalia will start classes this fall at the University of Rochester in New York, where she will study biomedical engineering.

She said that she has rarely traveled outside of Florida and looks forward to a different city and changing seasons.

Her parents said Nathalia can expect a call from them every day.

"We are really appreciative to the United States because it's a country of opportunity. It's definitely a country of opportunities for people who want to get ahead," her father said. "We believe the people who can do that are our daughters."

Laura Herrera can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 754-6114.

Comments

Forecast: Freeze warning for some Tampa Bay residents, but warmer weather coming

Portions of the Tampa Bay area under a freeze warning as this weekend’s cold blast extends into the start of the workweek.10News WTSPFeels-like temperatures around the Tampa Bay area That wintry feel, however, is coming into an end as conditions beg...
Updated: 18 minutes ago
Reasons elusive as Pinellas EMS demand skyrockets

Reasons elusive as Pinellas EMS demand skyrockets

When the fire chief asked if anyone in the room had fallen before, a few in the gray- and white-haired crowd raised their hands. One woman lost her footing as she was answering the phone. Another saw a palmetto bug, sprayed it with repellent, then s...
Updated: 20 minutes ago
PolitiFact Florida: Does Andrew Gillum want to make Florida a sanctuary state?

PolitiFact Florida: Does Andrew Gillum want to make Florida a sanctuary state?

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is using the controversial topic of sanctuary cities to drum up Republican support in his bid for governor.At a campaign stop in Jacksonville, Putnam warned voters that one of his Democratic opponents want...
Updated: 11 hours ago

Hooper: Yacht StarShip weathers the storm

At the height of the economic downturn, Yacht StarShip owner Troy Manthey said he and his wife, Jill, worried about the company’s survival."We were counting ice cubes," Manthey said.But they made it. The dining cruise business that sails out of the C...
Updated: 12 hours ago
St. Pete takes small steps on the way to sustainability

St. Pete takes small steps on the way to sustainability

BY CHARLIE FRAGOTimes Staff WriterST. PETERSBURG — It was a big promise made by Mayor Rick Kriseman more than two years ago: Get the Sunshine City to eventually run on 100 percent renewable energy.In a few months, the city will take small but tangibl...
Published: 12/11/17
The Daystarter: Freeze warning in northern Tampa Bay; Pinellas works to reduce 911 calls; fact-checking Putnam’s sanctuary city claims; should Dirk Koetter be fired?

The Daystarter: Freeze warning in northern Tampa Bay; Pinellas works to reduce 911 calls; fact-checking Putnam’s sanctuary city claims; should Dirk Koetter be fired?

Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what you need to know today.10News WTSPThe latest 7-day forecast• Some residents in northern Tampa Bay are under a freeze warning, according to 10Weather WTSP. Temperatures are expected to reach the mid-...
Updated: 14 minutes ago
Jones: Why Bucs coach Dirk Koetter won’t survive this

Jones: Why Bucs coach Dirk Koetter won’t survive this

  TAMPA — Dirk Koetter isn’t going to return as coach of the Bucs next season. That’s not official. No announcement has been made. No press conference is scheduled. It’s not an absolute fact. Not yet. And this isn’t a...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Florida WWE wrestler arrested, charged with battery of his wife, also a professional wrestler

Florida WWE wrestler arrested, charged with battery of his wife, also a professional wrestler

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Wrestler Rich Swann is being held without bail in a Florida jail after he was arrested and charged with battery and false imprisonment. Swann, who is 26 and a former WWE cruiserweight champion, was arrested Saturday. According to ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Veteran 3B Evan Longoria as uncertain as anyone about Rays’ plans

Veteran 3B Evan Longoria as uncertain as anyone about Rays’ plans

LAKE BUENA VISTA — Uncertain with all the talk about potentially rebuilding if the Rays would go as far as trading franchise cornerstone 3B Evan Longoria?So is he."I don’t know what to think, really,’’ Longoria said via text message Sunday night as t...
Updated: 8 hours ago

Sunny day floods become new norm

WASHINGTON — The tide watchers start patrolling whenever the celestial forces align. From coast to coast, hundreds of tide watchers come out with their cameras to record the latest ‘‘king tides,’’ brief episodes of tidal flooding that could become th...
Updated: 9 hours ago