First off, my colleague Geoff Fisk and I would like to thank the community of Barstow for the positive feedback since we began the "In the Spotlight" feature.

This week, we'd like to step away from featuring local businesses and shine the spotlight on a person from the Barstow area.

When I found out about Jacqueline Vargas' story, I knew she was worthy of being the first person we've featured in this column.

Vargas, born in Apple Valley, said she comes from a very humble and hard-working family. Her father, Moises, worked in a dairy for more than 30 years, while her mother, Jovita, was a secretary for a school district in Mexico.

When her parents migrated to the United States, Jovita Vargas became a housewife that taught her children the importance of education.

Vargas said her mother did not know any English and would use a dictionary to translate "word for word" in order for Jacqueline and her sister Nancy to complete homework.

Vargas said she lived in Helendale before moving to Hinkley, where she attended Hinkley Middle School and graduated as valedictorian.

She went on to graduate from Barstow High School, where she ranked in the top 20 in her class and met several teachers that helped throughout her high school education.

"I had great teachers at Barstow High School who also influenced me and motivated me to keep going," Vargas said. "Mr. Reynante Ramos, Mr. Peter Esperanza, Mr. Jay Schoby, and Mrs. Leah Johnston all helped me very much when I was in high school. I feel like they all had a big influence on me, and teachers like them truly make a difference in people's lives."

At the age of 22, Vargas is now pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in communication studies with a double concentration in mass media and public relations at California State University San Bernardino.

While studying at CSUSB, she has interned at the National Orange Show Events center and a nonprofit organization called the Children's Fund.

Through the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, Vargas received an internship with the United States Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service agency.

Vargas said she first applied for an HACU conference held in Chicago last October. Vargas was granted the opportunity to attend and had an all-expense-paid trip to Chicago for a week, where she applied for the internship.

Vargas began her internship in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 3 and has been assisting the agency with its "I am FSIS" agency-wide series and has also been assisting the director with multimedia files for online training, written transcripts, audio files and other logistics that ensure successful marketing delivery of presentations, she said.

Living in Washington until mid-May is certainly a big adjustment for Vargas. She has a new work environment, the much colder winter climate, and has to deal with public transportation. The biggest adjustment has been the city in general, she says. Living in such a big city is something a girl from Hinkley is none too familiar with.

Vargas said she hopes other people read her story and realize that "you can indeed do great things even if you come from such a small town like Barstow."

"I am proud to say that I am from Barstow, that I have worked at Carl's Jr. since I was 16 years old, and I that I have been able to obtain great opportunities elsewhere," Vargas said. "Unlike many people who complain about it, I believe that I received the proper guidance not only in college, but in my previous schooling at BHS as well.

"I would also want people to know that it is true that anything is possible as long as you put your mind to it. I always knew that I wanted to travel before I formed a family of my own, and I am slowly making my dream come true. I hope that you find that this story is really meant to motivate people to pursue their dreams, shoot for crazy, almost unbelievable goals, and watch themselves grow as time goes by."

Vargas is certainly making her dream come true, and I hope this spotlight reaches students on the verge of graduation who might need that extra push or motivation to get to where they want to be.

Unlike Vargas, I didn't breeze through high school. My senior year, I was going to Hesperia High School from 7:10 a.m. to 1:51 p.m. As soon as school ended, I had to stay in an after-school class to make up missing credits until 4 p.m. Right after that, I went home to get ready for a dance class (don't laugh at me) I had to take at Victor Valley College from 5:30 p.m. to about 9 p.m.

I was suffering the consequences of slacking off in high school, but all I cared about was receiving a diploma with my fellow classmates.

I wish I would have had Vargas' mindset, because despite me slacking off in high school, I realized if I set my sights on something, I can and will achieve it. All it takes is hard work and dedication.

I hope this spotlight story reaches the eyes of a student who will be inspired by Vargas' story and set their mind to aim for the stars.