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THE ORLANDO SENTINEL
Teen Speeding Her Way To Become A Doctor
Puerto Rico native Rosana Lastra Vicente seizes her dream.
By Debbie Barr | Special to the Sentinel
September 8, 2004
Rosana Lastra Vicente, 17, has always wanted to be doctor, and she isn't wasting an ounce of time to achieve her goal.
The native of Carolinas, Puerto Rico, graduated from St. Cloud High School in May at age 16. She is in an accelerated honors college program at the University of South Florida in Tampa that will allow her to complete medical school in seven years instead of the usual eight.
The young academic dynamo, who earned a perfect grade-point average while dual-enrolled at St. Cloud High School and Valencia Community College this past school year, said she was surprised when her guidance counselor at St. Cloud High told her she had to graduate early.
"I didn't want to graduate this year. I wanted to stay in dual-enrollment one more year to get more credits," Rosana said. "I did everything quick. It wasn't planned."
Rosana and her family moved from Puerto Rico to St. Cloud in 1996 when she was 9. Her father, Jorge Lastra, said he brought his family to the mainland United States to give his children more options. "We wanted our family to have better education, more opportunities," Lastra said.
It was a tough start for Rosana, who spoke no English. She described her first two years as a fourth- and fifth-grade student at Michigan Avenue Elementary as "frustrating" and "hard." But after mastering the language, Rosana said, schoolwork became a breeze for her.
"Once I got the language down, everything was easy after that," she said. "It's not like I'm studying all day. Once I get it in class, then I practice through homework. I also ask questions right away."
By taking summer classes and virtual classes throughout her middle- and high-school years, Rosana got a jump-start on her academic career and began high school as a sophomore.
When she decided to enter Valencia's dual-enrollment program in her third year at St. Cloud High, she was able to focus on her field of interest: medicine.
"I always said I wanted to be a doctor. I always stuck to that idea," said Rosana, who is interested in pediatrics.
She completed 40 hours of pre-med concentration courses at Valencia, including classes in calculus, trigonometry, chemistry and statistics. Not only did she finish her one year at Valencia with a 4.0 grade-point average, but she also volunteered to tutor her older classmates.
Rosana said her schedule at Valencia allowed her more time for community service. While attending Valencia, she worked as a Head Start preschool volunteer, senior citizen-translator, high-school teaching assistant and tutor. Rosana also put in about six hours a week as a doctor's shadow for a pediatrician in Kissimmee.
Her high academic standing in high school and community college and her time donated to community service earned Rosana many grants and college scholarships that will potentially cover her tuition and other costs at the University of South Florida for the next four semesters.
Rosana began the honors college program for medical school in August. The goal-oriented teen said she has bright hopes for her future.
"I want to be my best and above. I set a bar that's really high," she said.