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Her motto of ‘always work hard’ leads to early graduation

Taking flight for the Air Force and career dreams

Leer en Español, traducido por El Vocero Hispano

Kelloggsville — “Always work hard” and “Never give up” — those are the mottoes that junior Andrea Ronzon Contreras has long lived by. And through them she is on her way to accomplishing her goal: graduating a year early to pursue her dream of becoming a cardiothoracic surgeon.

“I’ve always been told I could do it,” Andrea said of early graduation. “My parents always believed that I could do it. There was some concern of ‘Are you sure you want to graduate that early?’” 

It was in sixth grade that Andrea was among 30 students who were told that because of their grades and test scores they qualified for advanced math. 

It came as a surprise to her, as Andrea said she had never considered herself smart, but had to work to achieve her goals and school standings.

“I looked up to my classmates, especially the smart kids,” she said. “I’m like, ‘Okay, if they can do this their own way, maybe I can do this in a different way. But I can definitely do it.’ It is always possible.”

So in seventh grade she took eighth-grade math, and in eighth grade, earned high school credit by taking Algebra 1. When she got to high school, she started with Algebra II and only needed to take three years of math. 

With her “always possible” attitude, Andrea began to figure out how she could graduate a year early and start on her goal of a medical career. Last summer, she took English 11, to help remove another four-year requirement, and also took her required health class. Since she played sports, she was able to earn a waiver for the physical education requirement and she tested out of the one-year Spanish requirement, as it is her native language. 

‘I can’t be average or I can’t be a follower. I have to be someone that someone watches and gets inspired by.’

—  Andrea Ronzon Contreras

Join the Air Force, Become a Doctor

With her school career wrapping up, Andrea set her sights on the U.S. Air Force. It fulfilled her desire to travel as well as provided her an entryway into her career choice.

“Many people think, ‘Oh, you’re just going into the Air Force, that means you’re gonna fly planes or go to war,’ which is not like that at all,” Andrea said. “They have jobs where you can be an IT tech, you can be a scientist, and they have this job, (in a) cardiothoracic pulmonary laboratory.”

Since she was 5, Andrea said she has always had the desire to be a doctor.

“There was an incident in my life, which I witnessed and in that moment, I knew I wanted to help people,” she said, adding it was a video she had seen where a person died because no one was able to help him. “I knew I wanted to be a doctor. I like the idea of it being my job to help people see another day. That was my dream job.”

Junior Andrea Ronzon Contreras will graduate a year early and has plans to enter the U.S. Air Force with the goal of becoming a cardiothoracic surgeon

Andrea explored several different doctor careers, such as veterinarian and dentist, but settled on cardiothoracic surgeon because she liked the idea of “saving a human heart and lungs.” 

With the Air Force, Andrea is required to take a year of general education classes, which she said she could do online or through a college near the base. Once Andrea has completed boot camp and those courses, she would be sent to Nevada for basic training in the pulmonary laboratory for about eight months before being placed on assignment.

Andrea said she has signed up for a four-year tour and if she likes it, she could re-enlist for another four years to complete the doctorate course through the Air Force, or she could leave after four years and continue on her own. 

Her biggest cheerleaders have been her parents, Alberto Ronzon and Margarita Contreras, Andrea said, adding they have made it clear they know she can achieve her dream.

Never Give Up, Keep Following Those Dreams

She also has been supported by many at Kelloggsville, such as elementary teacher Erin Sokol, who helped her learn English. Andrea was born in the United States but her parents are from Mexico so Spanish was the primary language at home, she said. 

Andrea also shared her dream of becoming a doctor with her middle-school math teacher, Heather Richards, her high-school history teacher, Alan Thompson, and choir director, Bethany Schutter, all of whom supported and encouraged her to reach for her dream, she said. 

“Andi is one of the most determined, resilient students I’ve had the pleasure of teaching,” said Schutter, Kelloggsvie’s director of vocal music. “She has faced many challenges in her young life, and yet she has used these challenges to motivate herself to reach her goals. Andi works hard both in school and out of school to support not only her own dreams, but those of her family.”  

Andrea Ronzon Contreras, third from right, with the Una Voce choir at Kelloggsville High School (courtesy)

Because of her parents’ sacrifices to provide a better life for their children, Andrea said she believes in being a positive force for others. She works in the North Godwin TEAM 21 after school, where she talks to the students about her goal of becoming a doctor — which she hopes inspires them to pursue their own dreams.

She also encourages her peers to step up, not to be a follower but a leader, and to give things a try such as being nice to a teacher, helping a fellow student or leading events that build community. 

“There’s someone always watching,” she said. “So I can’t be average or I can’t be a follower. I have to be someone that someone watches and gets inspired by. That’s always what I have thought. I have to be a picture or an image that people can think ‘Wow, she did this. It’s possible that I can do it too in this concept or in something else. If she was able to do it, what’s stopping me from achieving my dream or my goals?’”

In 10 years, Andrea hopes to be working as a surgeon and hopefully accomplish her biggest dream: having her own family, where she can share the message of “follow (your) dreams. Never give up. Keep working hard. Even if there are days where it’s like sleepless nights because you’re working hard, keep doing it.”

Read more from Kelloggsville: 
Students discover ‘I can do this; with expanded AP curriculum
She found the perfect marriage of music & helping

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Joanne Bailey-Boorsma
Joanne Bailey-Boorsma
Joanne Bailey-Boorsma is a reporter covering Kent ISD, Godwin Heights, Kelloggsville, Forest Hills and Comstock Park. The salutatorian for the Hartland Public Schools class of 1985, she changed her colors from blue and maize to green and white by attending Michigan State University, where she majored in journalism. Joanne moved to the Grand Rapids area in 1989, where she started her journalism career at the Advance Newspapers. She later became the editor for On-the-Town magazine, a local arts and entertainment publication. Her eldest daughter is a nurse, working in Holland, and her youngest attends Oakland University. Both are graduates from Byron Center High School. She is a volunteer for the Van Singel Fine Arts Advisory Board and the Kent District Library. In her free time, Joanne enjoys spending time with her family, checking out local theater and keeping up with all the exchange students they have hosted through the years. Read Joanne's full bio


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