The Brookhaven-based Latin American Association has nominated a Cross Keys High School senior for a leadership-based scholarship. 

The LAA chose 17-year-old Kimberly Castro-Godinez as its nominee for the Posse Scholarship, given to students who demonstrate academic excellence and serve as leaders in their schools or communities. Castro-Godinez, who lives in Chamblee, has a 3.98 GPA and is taking almost all of the AP classes Cross Keys has to offer, according to a DeKalb County School District spokesperson. 

Eliezer Velez, the managing director of youth services for the LAA, said Castro-Godinez has participated in its Latino Youth Leadership Academy, a mentoring program, since she was in 6th grade. 

The Latin American Association nominated Cross Keys High School senior Kimberly Castro-Godinez for the Posse scholarship.

“She’s shown us that she really wants to pursue a career and continue with her education,” Velez said. “Because of her tenacity and her willingness to work hard to accomplish her education, we nominated her.” 

Velez said no decision has been made about the scholarship yet. The decision and interview process will probably take a couple of months. In the meantime, Reporter Newspapers talked with Castro-Godinez about school, the pandemic, and, most importantly, dogs. This interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

I heard that you were nominated for the Posse scholarship program by the Latin American Association. When did you find out?

Kimberly Castro-Godinez: I found out around May. They were asking who was interested in the Posse scholarship, and I was like, “I am ready for any opportunity.” Then they told us a little bit about it. I haven’t really heard anything back [yet.]

And what is the Posse scholarship? Could you describe it for me?

Castro-Godinez: The Posse scholarship is a program that helps you with your leadership skills. Once you get into college, they help you become a leader. They don’t just give you the money and then they leave you out in the world. They actually help you … it has helped a lot of people with their leadership skills and [with] how to be successful after high school.

How did you feel when you found out you were nominated? 

Castro-Godinez: I felt good. It’s like, growing up I never thought that I could be capable of actually getting money to go to college … I go to low-income schools, so sometimes you feel like you won’t be given the same opportunities as other kids that go to private school. It was just a good feeling to have opportunities in front of me and have hope in the future.

Let’s talk a little bit about the pandemic. It must have been hard when COVID-19 hit. 

Castro-Godinez: Yes, it was very hard. There were pros and cons to virtual learning. But we all suffered so much because of COVID, [because of] all of the anxieties that would come up, that still do come up because COVID is still rising. And then you had to deal with school, and you also had to deal with just surviving and trying to make it day by day and do your simple daily tasks without freaking out over a pandemic. It was hard, but once we started going back to school it got better because I was able to ask for help from my teachers, and my teachers were really supportive.

What do you enjoy doing outside of schoolwork? What are some of your favorite extracurriculars? 

Castro-Godinez: I love ROTC. JROTC is a passion of mine. I just love the leadership that comes from it and also it’s really fun going to drill meets and drilling with other cadets. Also since I’ve been in the program for so long, I kind of get the sense of what I’m supposed to do and how to help other cadets. So it’s empowering to have a leadership role and also help other people. 

I love my dog. I love my dog. I love going on walks with my dog and just going about my day and going on walks with him. It’s really calm. I love it. 

What’s his name?

Castro-Godinez:  Max. He’s a puppy. He’s a German Shepherd. 

Have you been training him and getting to teach him a lot of things? 

Castro-Godinez: I’ve been telling him to sit and stay … He’s really smart. I’m trying to whistle, and [have him] come back to me. It’s working out. 

What would you say your favorite academic class is at school?

Castro-Godinez: Math. AP Calculus. I love how it feels to understand the concepts. My teacher taught us really well. My class did really well. We got really good scores on the AP Calc. test. I would just find it so interesting how I could understand the concepts, and then sometimes you could even imagine it in your head. I don’t know, it just felt good being able to imagine it and being able to get the right answer. And I feel like I’m good at it. 

So you’re starting your senior year. What’s something you’ve done in your high school career that you’re most proud of? 

Castro-Godinez: I think the thing that I’m most proud of is trying out new things. In sophomore year, I told myself – I’m going to try out everything and see what I do and don’t like. It ended up going well! I ended up finding that I liked drilling in ROTC, and I ended up getting new experiences. I went to my first drill meet … It was just so many experiences that I know I wouldn’t have gotten if I didn’t try out and explore, so I’m very proud of that. 

Have you thought about college yet? Are there any schools that you’re interested in? 

Castro-Godinez: I’ve been thinking about [University of Georgia], because they have a lot of majors. I really hope I get into UGA. I’ve been thinking about other schools, but right now UGA stands out to me. 

What are you most looking forward to about your senior year? 

Castro-Godinez: This might be silly, but I’m really looking forward to graduation – seeing everybody just so happy that they finally made it. When I go to graduations, it gets so emotional for me because it’s like, they’ve worked so hard and their effort has paid off. I just know I’m going to be crying because people have suffered. We have suffered, and we have worked so hard and just to see everybody happy – that’s what I’m looking forward to. Also the parents, because the parents have given everything for their children to go to school and have a good education. I know that it’ll all be worth it to see their smiling faces and everything, so I’m really looking forward to that.

Sammie Purcell

Sammie Purcell is a staff writer for Reporter Newspapers.