Jesus Medina: Campus organizer is headed to UC Santa Cruz

Jesus Medina hoists Jose Gonzalez for a photo taken by Jade Magallanes (shadow) at Sierra Vista High School
Jesus Medina hoists Jose Gonzalez for a photo taken by Jade Magallanes (shadow) at the Sierra Vista High School on-campus prom.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
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The gray dawn weighs heavy on the Sierra Vista High School campus. Fading signs of proper COVID-19 protocols weather on rows of unused lockers lining immaculate hallways.

Wearing multicolor Vans sneakers and an oversized UC Merced sweatshirt, senior Jesus Medina crouches below yellow caution tape on his way to the ASB office. Clutching a sugary, caffeinated Venti Starbucks drink, he’s on a mission to bring life back to a school weary after a year of lockdowns.

Jesus Medina and fellow senior Angela Camarillo hang a banner supporting a classmate
Jesus Medina and fellow senior Angela Camarillo hang a banner supporting classmate and senior class President Isaiah Maldonado before he competes in a varsity tennis match.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

He rolls two oversized speakers onto the quad, punches a few keys on his smartphone, and in an instant, Dua Lipa’s “Levitating” echoes throughout. Minutes later, Jesus is waving at teachers smiling through masks. He stops a few for selfies as a handful of students walk straight to classrooms of plexiglass and computers. He joins classmate and close friend Jade Magallanes for morning announcements. They share an old microphone, delivering school news and reciting the pledge of allegiance.

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Jade giggles as they emphatically say, “Have a tasteful Thursday, Dons!” Jesus describes his pandemic year as “surreal.” It was difficult adjusting to online learning. “People not turning on their cameras, the teacher talking to blank screens,” he said. “That was weird.”

“I turn on my camera so I can have some connection with the teacher,” he said. “The teacher is literally looking at screens with your initials on them. We’re feeling poopy, but the teacher is too. When I had a chance to come to campus, I took it,” he said.

Starbucks in one hand, smartphone in the other, Jesus Medina looks for teachers arriving on campus at Sierra Vista High
Minutes after hanging a teacher appreciation banner, Jesus Medina looks for teachers arriving on campus at Sierra Vista High to add to his collection of selfies.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Jesus believed that staying home might have delayed his preparation for life on campus next fall. “Sleeping during class, setting my alarm five minutes before class ended so I could leave class. I don’t think I would survive college.” He’s bound for UC Santa Cruz. Thanks to the teachers of the AVID program, he was on the path to college since his freshman year. “It really helped me,” he said. “I’m going to college with a $20,000 scholarship.”

At home with his mom, dad, a bird and a Maltese Shi Tzu that barks at him, Jesus plays “Minecraft” with friends from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. Then they talk until 3 a.m. His advice to his younger self? “Enjoy your time with your friends right now, because you’re going to move five hours away.”

Jesus Medina, right, joins three other students attending class.
Jesus Medina, right, joins three other students attending Araceli Castillo-Parrales’ AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) class.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
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Jesus Medina attends the Sierra Vista High AVID awards assembly.
Jesus Medina attends the Sierra Vista High AVID awards assembly.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Patricia Medina straightens her son Jesus's collar as his father Felix Sr. looks on.
Patricia Medina straightens her son Jesus’ collar as his father, Felix Sr., looks on at the Sierra Vista High AVID awards banquet. Jesus was honored for having the most community service hours and was named AVID Standout.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)