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This month’s Student Spotlight is Belky Claros Espino, a 12th-grader at Buford High School.

17-year-old Espino resides in Buford and is the daughter of Rosa Espino and Marvin Claros.

She has two siblings: 24-year-old Marvin Claros Espino, a Buford High School alum; and, Keily Claros Espino, a 13-year-old who attends Buford Middle School.

Espino identifies her parents as the most influential people in her life. She describes how:

“At the young ages of 14 and 16, my parents immigrated from Mexico and Honduras to Georgia. Having escaped the thresholds of poverty present in their home countries, they have instilled in me the value of possessing a strong work ethic and an unwavering sense of pride, allowing me to navigate even the most difficult of situations. Their determination to secure a better life, even when their life was continuously put at risk, has inspired me to dedicate my efforts towards accommodating the needs of young immigrant children by becoming an ESOL educator.”

Espino has been attending Buford City Schools since kindergarten. “I am a lifetimer!”, she explains. 

Her favorite teacher is her former AP Spanish teacher, Mrs. Ashley Paez. Espino says this is because:

“Her class was always engaging and she made an effort to connect with each and every student. There were times in class in which we talked about our daily lives, while still connecting it to the lesson at hand, and we were able to form a tight-knit bond between each and every one of us!”

Espino describes herself as “a HUGE animal lover”. She has a Siberian Husky and six Budgies (parakeets).

She also loves working with children and can be found volunteering at Saturday School. In the past, she also served as an intern at Buford Academy and Elementary.

An avid reader, Espino especially enjoys Stephen King novels and describes how she can “binge-read books from virtually every genre in one sitting”. She reads books written in both English and in Spanish. 

On top of being fluent in both Spanish and English, Espino is currently studying Japanese to expand her cultural awareness even more.

Outside of school, Espino’s mother has been teaching her how to cook traditional Mexican and Honduran cuisines. She says her family also goes on regular camping trips because, “We love being outdoors and being surrounded by nature!”

Espino loves exploring the customs of various cultures, especially in terms of how people express themselves in their native languages. She even toyed with the idea of becoming a linguist at one point. She enjoys traversing the field of psychology to learn about the complexities of how peoples’ minds work.

Espino has achieved quite a number of distinctions inside and outside of school. Among these, are:

  • Translating for Hispanic families at school events such as parent-teacher conferences
  • Being a teacher’s assistant and interpreter for adult ESL classes at Sugar Hill Church for the past three years
  • Being named president of the HoPe (Hispanic Organization Promoting Education) club — where she collaborates with other club officers to host inclusive meetings with Hispanic members and bridge them to other service and educational opportunities
  • Being nominated three times for the Governor’s Honors Program in Language Arts, Social Studies, and Foreign Language
  • Being a finalist in the QuestBridge College Prep Scholars Program
  • Being selected as a finalist for UGA’s Georgia Ready Summer Institute

How does she do it? 

Espino says, “I will say that I have dedicated most of my energy to ensuring that my academic abilities are of the highest quality as possible since I wish to break the generational cycles of poverty that have characterized my family back home in Mexico and Honduras, as well as to fight against the low graduation rates that characterize many minority groups.”

When asked which area of AAA Excellence she thinks she most represents, she answered: 

“I would like to think that I am most representative of academics, specifically classes centered around English and foreign language. I have been in the top three of my class for two consecutive years and was in the top 10 when I was a freshman, an incredible feat I would like to think since I was a digital learner at the time. Over the past years, I have sought to offer any assistance that I can to my fellow peers and underclassmen by participating as a tutor for my school’s Writing Center (for two years), as a Spanish tutor, and as a tutor for SAT prep since I know that a large majority of students are unable to afford private lessons that are meant to prepare them for this crucial exam.”

Espino has a rock solid list of academic achievements and awards, which include:

  • GPA of 4.0 
  • Class rank of 3rd 
  • Eight AP and eight Honors courses (currently taking five AP classes) 
  • Perfect scores on seven AP exams 
  • AP Scholar With Honor Award 
  • AP Scholar With Distinction Award 
  • National Hispanic Recognition Award 
  • AP Capstone Diploma 
  • GA Certificate of Merit 

Other notable recognitions of Espino’s are found among the following:

  • National Honor Society and Spanish NHS for two years — earning over 40 service hours 
  • Beta Club for over two years — earning over 20 service hours 
  • Serving as a tutor for her school’s Writing Center for two years
  • Being a member of her school’s Elite Educators Club for two years 

She had this to say about the myriad ways Buford High School has influenced her:

I absolutely love when BHS hosts cultural events! Last year, I helped plan the HoPe club’s events for International Night, and it is an event that I always look forward to every single year since each cultural group is able to showcase their heritage! Recently, the Spanish for Native Speakers classes also hosted a luncheon in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, and it was an absolute joy to see all types of students and teachers coming together to indulge in traditional Hispanic cuisine!”

This school year, Espino hopes to become even more involved in the community, which includes providing “a safe haven for Hispanic students in my new role as president of the HoPe club!” 

She has been in talks with school officials about spearheading a Hispanic-centric club at Buford Middle School by the next school year.

After graduating, Espino plans to attend college but hasn’t decided which university yet. What she does know, is she wants to become an ESOL (English to Speakers of Other Languages) teacher, explaining:

Having been personally enrolled in the ESOL program during my elementary years, I am more than familiar with the passion that educators employed in this field exhibit in their practice that allows them to connect with each and every student. I hope to one day aid those who have been negatively impacted by the unjust circumstances of their home countries, just as my parents were, while also inspiring them to achieve their fullest potential!”

Her advice for underclassmen is to not be afraid of exploring outside of their comfort zones.

She relates how she initially felt hesitancy in joining clubs at BHS because she worried she would not feel welcome. She says that this could not have been more wrong.

Regardless of a student’s interest, she assures younger students they will be welcomed with open arms and advises them to believe that they are deserving of this. She declares, “I know for a fact that you will find a family here at BHS!”

As for her personal legacy, Espino would like to be remembered as a student whose passion for knowledge inspires and guides others. She confides that while she was not “the most outgoing student” when she entered Buford High School, she did not let this hold her back. Espino says that eventually she “substantially ventured out of my comfort zone in order to ensure that each student feels welcomed and seen!”

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