The 17-year-old Castillo will walk across the stage at Coastal Bend College on Friday, May 11, and receive her associate degree in science.
She is the first student to graduate with an associate’s degree before obtaining her high school diploma. Her high school graduation is still more than a year away.
“It hasn’t really set in how big of an accomplishment it is,” Castillo said.
The journey to her associate’s degree has been a long one. It started the summer after her eighth-grade year when she attended a Discovery Camp at CBC. After attending that one camp, she had 10 hours of college credit.
She continued to take classes her freshman school year and summer. When she got to her sophomore year, she starting taking dual credit classes and by the end of her sophomore year, realized it would be possible to earn her associate’s while in high school.
Taking college courses and high school at the same time would seem like a lot for one person to accept, but Castillo can handle it.
“I put the most important things first,” she said. “I only work on one to two college classes per week. Sundays are the main day I do my homework.”
Unlike some college students, Castillo doesn’t practice procrastination.
“I wouldn’t say I procrastinate,” she said. “Sometimes I don’t start things until the day they are due, but it is because I am doing other things.”
College has not come without its frustrations and tears, but Castillo said every time it came to that, her mom was there to cheer her on.
“I always had my mom. She has been a big part of this whole thing,” Castillo said. “Without her telling me I could do it, I don’t think I would have finished.”
She considers her mom to be her role model.
“All the opportunities I have had are because of her,” she said. “She has never given up on anything. She is a very strong woman and I really look up to her.”
Even with the support of her mom and other family members, she still has had some difficulties.
She said that history was her least favorite class.
“I didn’t find anything about it interesting,” Castillo said.
She still got an “A” in the class but a low “A” and she seemed disappointed when asked about it.
Castillo has a 4.0 GPA in college and is ranked number one in the junior class at Jones High.
Besides being exceptionally smart and motivated, Castillo is also a gifted athlete. She plays on both the varsity soccer team and baseball team.
There were nights earlier this year she was going to more than two hours of practice and then going home to start homework.
One would think that with summer just around the corner all Castillo would want to do is nothing, but she can’t seem to sit still.
She is already signed up at two different camps at the University of Texas in Austin.
She will be attending the university after she graduates next spring.
“It has always been a dream of mine to go there,” Castillo said.
Her most recent accomplishment to add to her growing list is the recipient of the 2012 Barnhart Scholar Award. She was selected as the winner from among four finalists. The award is a $30,000 college scholarship.
“I was glad I was chosen as a finalist,” Castillo said. “I really think it will help me in my dream to become a pediatrician.”
When asked about the other finalists, Castillo said, “We are all really good kids and we were all deserving of it.”
When Castillo is not taking college classes, finishing high school or playing sports, she is volunteering at the hospital, watching her little brother’s baseball games or spending time with her family.
“I love my family. I love being around them,” she said.