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  • Juan Ocampo-Soto at Memorial High School in Madison

    Juan says what he likes best about Memorial is "the community, how everybody’s connected.”

  • Juan Ocampo-Soto at Memorial High School in Madison

    Juan joined the Avid-TOPS program in the second semester of his sophomore year.

  • Juan Ocampo-Soto at Memorial High School in Madison

    Juan credits his teachers for motivating him, pushing him, and believing in him.

  • Juan Ocampo-Soto at Memorial High School in Madison

    Because Juan’s career aspirations involve mechanical engineering, it comes as no surprise that math was one of his favorite classes. “I think it’s because it challenges me, in a way.”

AVID/TOPS

AVID is a college readiness system that includes an elective course focused on organizational strategies, study skills, critical thinking, tutorial support, and career and college awareness. In MMSD, AVID is partnered with the TOPS program through the Boys & Girls Club of Dane County. TOPS provides full-time student coordinators in each of the four high schools, summer internships, after-school mentors, funding for more than 40 tutors during the elective course, and a variety of college and career field trips.

Juan Ocampo-Soto has exemplified success throughout his entire MMSD education. A quick learner and dedicated student, he started kindergarten at Henry David Thoreau speaking only Spanish.

This was the first of many times that Juan’s positive attitude and can-do spirit helped him overcome obstacles to achieve his goals, carrying into Cherokee Heights Middle School and ultimately to Memorial High, where he joined the Avid-TOPS program in the second semester of his sophomore year.

He was first intrigued by the opportunity to learn valuable college preparation skills, and the potential to visit colleges to envision life on campus, but after being accepted into the program he also felt encouraged and motivated to improve his time management while studying even harder.

After earning a near-perfect GPA his freshman year, lower grades in his first semester of sophomore year were a wakeup call. “I put the important stuff to the side and did the fun stuff and I didn’t get some of my [homework] done.”

Though Juan found it challenging, he knew he would have to solve the issue in order to ultimately see success throughout high school. So he experimented with switching up his study methods. “I tried flashcards, that didn’t really work for me, but then I noticed that I did best when I just went over and over again the same subject. And then with managing my time well I put my homework first – then the free time that I had left, it was just for me.”

Juan’s devotion to helping his community and leading his peers meant that his “just for me” time filled up quickly with responsibilities. He served as treasurer of the Latinos Unidos organization at Memorial, worked a part-time job at McDonalds, volunteered at MSCR and interned for a summer at Saris Cycles, an opportunity from TOPS that gave him valuable insight into the world of engineering – a field he is passionate about pursuing.

Because Juan’s career aspirations involve mechanical engineering, it comes as no surprise that math was one of his favorite classes. “I think it’s because it challenges me, in a way.” Juan also enjoyed physics and auto tech.

What’s Juan’s favorite thing about Memorial? “The community, how everybody’s connected.” He calls the school a “friendly environment” and notes that even though it’s a typical high school with occasional issues, the fact that everyone there is friendly and kind makes it a supportive educational environment. He credits his motivation for academic success to two teachers – Miss Marsh (AVID) and Miss Annie (ESL) “They kept motivating me, and they didn’t give up on me, basically. They kept pushing me and they believed in me.”

A first-generation college student, Juan has already been accepted into an auto collision and repair program at Madison College. After he completes that two year program, he’ll go on to spend two years more in an auto tech program. He plans to get real-world experience in those fields prior to continuing his studies in the field of mechanical engineering at MSOE. And first, he’ll be interning for the summer at Madison Gas and Electric, shadowing various types of engineers.

Juan heads to college with four scholarships thanks to various entities and a recipe for real-world success thanks to his educational experiences and mentors. His confidence and competence will surely contribute to his post-high school achievements, but his positive attitude is what truly sets him apart.

When highlighting one of his scholarships in their newsletter, the Dane County Boys and Girls Club said, “Juan's smile is contagious and his willingness to help others and the community around him is remarkable. He will leave a lasting impact on our society because he leads with passion and supports others unconditionally.”

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