At a very early age, 17-year-old Xavier Guaracha set himself an unlikely goal for a small-town student—he decided he was going to attend prestigious Yale University.
He will be entering the Ivy League school, which has a meager 6% acceptance rate, this fall after graduating from Anzar High School.
His mother, for one, is not surprised.
“He has always known what he wanted and has worked to get it,” said Monica Martinez Guaracha. “He’s not someone who is in your face or showing off what he can do. But he has always set goals and accomplished them.”
Guaracha said he saw a commercial for Yale when he was in the sixth grade, and it lingered in the back of his mind.
“It was kind of like a dream,” he said, “and it was a part of my subconscious. Then, when I got to the eighth grade, it fixed into my head that I would go there. It has been pretty intimidating, especially in my freshman year, when I was trying to plan out my four years of high school. But it was always on my mind when I was choosing classes or doing extracurricular activities. I wanted to be sure I pushed myself academically.”
Born in Chino, Guaracha moved to San Juan Bautista with his family when he was five years old. His love of learning came early, along with an awareness of the limits of small-town education.
“You don’t really know what school is like until about the third grade,” Guaracha said, “but you get an understanding: ‘This is what I am learning, and this is what I can do with what I learned.’ It’s a moment of cognitive awareness. I knew that being in a small-town school meant there would not be as many opportunities there for me, and I knew that I would have to look for them myself and make connections.”
Guaracha started making those connections when he was four years old, convincing his Cub Scout pack leaders to allow him to join a year early. (He is on track to become an Eagle Scout, Boy Scouting’s highest rank, this year.) Before he hit his teens, he had qualified to exhibit at the California State Science Fair, came in second in the San Benito County qualifier for the California State Spelling Bee Championship, and attended the Bruce W. Woolpert Algebra Academy.
“Things come to me quickly,” he said. “I set high expectations for myself, and when I succeeded in my goals, I would think, ‘Maybe I can do a little bit more.’”
Guaracha’s high school years have been proof of his ability to push himself. Besides being an honoree at the 2019 Community Foundation for San Benito County Philanthropy Day and taking first place in the 2019 San Juan Rotary Club speech contest, he also served as moderator at the 2020 BenitoLink and SBC Farm Bureau primary election forum.
His mother said that he always looked for ways to improve the student experience for others, even at an early age.
“When he was in elementary school,” she said, “he thought it was wrong that there wasn’t a 3rd-5th grade student council, so he created it. In the eighth grade, there was a girl in his class who was not going to pass. He tutored her for the whole year and brought her up two levels. Helping others do their best is part of who he is.”
Even for a student with a 4.2 grade point average, the road to Yale was not easy; the final stages of his quest were particularly difficult.
“The stress was bad and everything was prolonged,” he said. “It is not like you take one test and you get in. All the stress is divided, like right before you are going to submit your application or go to the interview. There was a lot of anticipation and all my stress was stuck onto it. The worst part was waiting to find out.”
Deciding what to major in was not easy because he has skills in numerous areas—Guaracha just finished his Advanced Placement tests for language arts and biology. He was also the only Anzar student to take the AP chemistry test this year.
“I have an aptitude for mathematics,” he said. “When I am doing mathematics, I can feel my brain working and getting more focused. But I am planning on majoring in comparative literature and computer science. I did not want to neglect mathematics, and I thought computer science would be a way to blend in my interests.”
Guaracha is also considering a double major or joining a program to get his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the same time. And he has already set his sights on either Columbia University or UC-Berkeley after he graduates from Yale.
No matter where he ends up in his academic career, Guaracha plans on returning to California when he has finished, hopefully not far from San Juan Bautista.
“I love that it’s a small town and I like that I can walk everywhere,” he said. “I know a lot of people and there is a great feeling of community. I get a feeling of being welcome that I don’t think I would get in a bigger city.”
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