Angely Vargas: Leading a series of firsts


Ashley Tumacder

Junior Angely Vargas with her friends Nasana Bajcharya and Evelyn Aguilar. Angely is an AVID student that has come to excel, particularly in STEM, despite obstacles thrown her way.

Junior Angely Vargas is paving her path in life through a series of firsts: she will be the first person in her family to attend college, and is the first Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) student to be in the Advanced Student Investigation (ASI) class. 

In the competitive and quick-paced environment of Silicon Valley, Angely brings a unique and talented, yet humble, personality to her areas of interest, always eager to help others along the way.  

On Monday, January 23, Angely was named Los Altos High School student of the month by the Mountain-View Los Altos Board. When introduced during the meeting, she was described as an excelling student,  with two AVID Academic Achievement awards displaying her enthusiasm in the classroom. However, Angely admitted that she often feels isolated in her successes.

“The biggest challenge I faced in most of my classes is mostly feeling like I got there by luck,” Angely said. 

With the lack of diversity of students in AP or honors courses at school, and as one of very few Latinas in her AP Calculus BC class, Angely notes that sometimes, imposter syndrome gets the best of her. 

“Being in an environment where no one looks like me isn’t easy,” she said. “Sometimes it feels like, maybe I don’t deserve to be here.” 

One moment in particular has stuck with Angely from middle school: after taking her math diagnostics test that determined her math level track, she was denied of receiving her test score as the administration claimed her score was too poor for the accelerated course. She was put in the regular math track, despite her confidence in her skill. Though the rest of her friends received their scores and got into their respective classes, Angely wasn’t able to hear back about her results. 

“I thought I did well on the diagnostic test, and I had to get my white friends to convince the administration to give me my results,” Angely said. “Turns out, I scored better than a lot of people in the advanced math class, and was put in the right level.”

Despite setbacks, Angely worked hard to leap through these hurdles attempting to set her back in her academic success. She received the Top 5 GPA for both her freshman and sophomore years from LAHS Latino Awards, as well as the Outstanding Achievement English Award her sophomore year. 

“I’ve overcome [imposter syndrome] by realizing like, I’ve done enough hard work, I do deserve to be here,” Angely said. “It’s kind of like a mindset change.” 

Someone that helps her move through these challenges is her brother, who she thanks for reminding her to take care of herself amidst difficult extracurricular activities and academically intense courses. 

“He’s providing for our family and working right now, and I’m just really grateful for him.” Angely said. “Sometimes I’ll be studying late at night and he’ll tell me, ‘It’s time to go to bed, come on, you can study in the morning. Just go to bed now.’” 

Just like her brother does for her, Angely is passionate about helping others — whether it be her classmates or the entire school community. 

Angely regularly tutors for a LAHS Survey Skills class and volunteers at the Community Service Agency, a non-profit organization that supports those on low income, experiencing homelessness or senior citizens. Her well-rounded skill and approachable personality make her a good fit for this passion of giving back to her community. 

“Angely is one of the most talented and driven students I’ve met, but also incredibly humble,” AVID and English teacher Johnathan Kwon said. 

Of course, sometimes giving back means just helping out her friends.

“She’s really good at math, so I’ll ask her for help on [math problems], and she helps me understand the concepts,” junior Evelyn Aguilar said. “She’s just a really caring person.” 

Angely’s current ASI project also strives to help others, specifically those suffering from bulimia nervosa: an eating disorder where one experiences binge-purge cycles due to an unhealthy relationship with body weight. 

“I wanted to choose something I was passionate about, and that was eating disorders,” Angely said. “I chose to focus on bulimia because a person can maintain their physical appearance without showing they’re internally struggling — they’ll still appear normal.”

The project’s goal is to determine the root causes of bulimia and future treatments for the eating disorder. Angely is testing a previously unstudied compound to see its effectiveness on lowering mental tendencies associated with bulimia. Using this non-invasive compound could help reduce the neurotransmitters in the brain which link to the frequency of binge-purge cycles, helping those suffering with bulimia minimize the severity of their disorder, and possibly recover. 

Angely knows that the “firsts” she is experiencing won’t end after high school — she’ll be part of the first generation of her family to graduate from college and the first to take many of the steps she will take in her career. But she won’t be doing it all alone: she will also continue to have people to celebrate her successes with her, supporting her along the way.