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Estancia High School: New and exciting paths

Kaur studied English after moving with family from India; Velez-Sanchez will be the first in his family to attend college.

June 21, 2007

Editor's Note: Daily Pilot reporter Michael Miller spotlights two outstanding students from five area schools. For more student profiles, click here.

For the first 17 years of her life, Jaspreet Kaur lived with her family in the Punjab region of western India. Her father was a farmer while her mother worked as a housekeeper. America seemed like such a faraway land that, according to a popular saying in her region, the country had no sun or moon.

Before her sophomore year, Kaur's parents moved the family across the Atlantic to give their children better opportunities for the future. Kaur didn't speak a word of English when she enrolled at Estancia, but she took three periods of English a day, pushed herself through summer school and had counselors who worked with her on the side. To improve her English skills, she even took a job at school in the library — shelving and shipping books, and learning to read the card catalog.

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"I worked day and night to improve my English because I wanted to graduate," said Kaur, 19, who will graduate this week along with her 17-year-old brother, Lakhwinder Singh.

An aspiring Orange Coast College student and property manager, Kaur writes home to her relatives now and relays her stories of Orange County: going to Disneyland, volunteering at the Someone Cares Soup Kitchen, driving a car to school every day.

And while her old home may seem distant now, she's found that it's the same sun and moon.

SKY'S THE LIMITErnesto Velez-Sanchez soared — quite literally — during his senior year at Estancia High School.

The Costa Mesa resident had dreamed of being a pilot since he was 5 years old, but since no one in his family had ever attended college, going to flight school seemed like a long shot.

Velez-Sanchez got his ticket when a friend recommended he join the Save Our Youth center, on the Westside. The center, founded in the early 1990s, helps low-income students prepare and pay for college — and also gives them money for earning good grades in high school.

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