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'I really want to go to college and be someone.' West Hall senior considers options
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West Hall High's Karen Herrera - photo by Scott Rogers

Karen Herrera has many interests leaving high school, including graphic design, but a future in dentistry seems to be winning out.

The West Hall High School senior said in an interview with The Times she has wanted to do something in the medical field since she was child. But dentistry has been her main interest since high school.

“I wouldn’t want to experience a patient passing away or something,” Herrera said. “I wouldn’t want to be able to cope with it. I could go into dentistry, helping people with their smile and everything. I know I was self-conscious about my smile, and then I got braces.”

Herrera, 18, an International Baccalaureate Career Diploma student, is considering Kennesaw State University or the University of North Georgia upon graduation, with a major in biology and a minor in graphic design.

She expects that while she’s in dental school, she’ll “be doing something with graphic design.”

Graphic design is something that captured her interest in her freshman year.

“When I toured the high school, we walked into that classroom and … they told us (about the program), I was like, ‘I like this,’ so I decided to take that (career) pathway,” Herrera said.

“It’s a lot of computer and software work, creating and working with customers. I help the teacher either making the logos or pressing them on shirts using different machines.”

Class of 2021

Read stories of outstanding seniors across Hall County in our Class of 2021 special section. Pick up a copy of the print publication, which lists names of all the graduating seniors, inside the May 8-9 weekend edition of The Times.

The school does graphic design work for others outside West Hall High, including shirts, banners and business cards, Herrera said.

She began taking the pathway classes in her sophomore year, winning in SkillsUSA career and technical skills competitions. She also has completed various IB service and professional/career portfolio requirements.

Also, she has been a member of the school’s girls soccer team, the Beta Club and Spanish Honor Society.

Herrera’s life has been a struggle in other ways.

She holds down an after-school job at Wendy’s restaurant in Gainesville to help with family finances, including saving for college. Her car was totaled in a recent wreck, leaving her without vital transportation.

“All my college savings went to buying a new car,” Herrera said.

She is hoping for tuition help through the HOPE scholarship and other financial aid, but otherwise college funding “will be coming out of my pocket, because my parents and grandparents can’t really support me like that.”

And “I really want to go to college and be someone.”

Also, Herrera, a Gainesville native, has grown up without her mother, who was deported to Mexico 11 years ago. The family is working to bring her to the U.S., “but with COVID, everything is frozen,” said Herrera, who also has a 15-year-old sister.

Through life’s challenges, school has been exciting for her.

“It’s been a long ride, but I’ve enjoyed it,” Herrera said. “I’m grateful for all the opportunities they’ve given me to create memories.”

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West Hall High's Karen Herrera - photo by Scott Rogers