Student of the Week: Joshly Huitzil-Interian


Photo courtesy of Joshly Huitzil-Interian

“I just appreciate what I have a lot, and I think that’s what motivates me,” senior Joshly Huitzil-Interian said.

Maddie Khaw, Editor in Chief

For senior Joshly Huitzil-Interian, the pandemic has brought an intermixing of her home life with her school life.

Huitzil-Interian said that while doing online classes at home, she also manages other responsibilities throughout the day, such as cleaning and other chores — a contrast from her pre-pandemic routine, where her pressures, stressors, and tasks at school were distinctly separate from those at her house.

Now, Huitzil-Interian finds herself using breaks between Zoom classes and asynchronous assignments to complete other tasks, like cleaning the house or running errands.

“Before my mom gets back from work, everything has to be clean,” Huitzil-Interian said. “It’s kind of difficult to manage online school with home life, because here I feel like I have more responsibility to clean and do chores, and it’s kind of hard to balance that with school.”

Huitzil-Interian said that at the beginning of the pandemic, this felt “overwhelming.” But since then, she has found ways to better manage her time.

“I just really have to stick on a strict schedule in order to finish it,” she said. “As of now, I get everything done just because I put myself on that schedule, and I got a planner and reminders and things like that, so I can stay on track… Now, when I feel stressed, I just go to my planner and write it out, everything that I need to get done, and write a schedule so I don’t feel like I have no control over anything. So that’s helped me out a lot.”

On top of her responsibilities in classes and at home, Huitzil-Interian also works a job at a restaurant called El Burrito Azteca, where she manages the cash register, packs food, and cleans the workspace. Because she is so close with her co-workers, she said that “it doesn’t even feel like work,” despite busy shifts.

“It gets really crowded,” she said. “I like working at that pace because I feel like I’m being productive and doing something.” 

As for school, Huitzil-Interian said that digital learning was “a little weird” at first, because it “didn’t feel like real school.” Now, she said, her classes “have been going well,” though she has seen some bumps in the road in terms of keeping up with certain subjects. However, she was able to overcome these challenges with support from her teachers.

“I feel like the teachers were very flexible and understanding, and they gave me time to catch up,” she said. “I really appreciate how they’re genuinely concerned for us, even in those times — especially in those times — and because of that… I think that I was able to get back on track, and my GPA is pretty good now.”

Her favorite classes are AP Spanish 5 with Ms. Lisa Moran and Lasallian Ministry with Mr. Gary Hortsch. 

“I just like what we learn or do in Lasallian Ministry,” Huitzil-Interian said. “I feel like it’s very meaningful, and it doesn’t really feel like class.”

One specific part of this religious studies class that Huitzil-Interian has enjoyed is the assignment of mentoring. Each week, students meet with and mentor an individual of their choice, oftentimes a younger peer, friend, or relative. 

Huitzil-Interian chose to mentor her younger cousin Matteo, who she said is around six years old and is “the cutest little thing.” 

Recently, Huitzil-Interian has been helping Matteo learn how to speak English.

“We’re doing the syllables and stuff like that, since it’s kind of hard for him to pronounce,” she said. “We’re just taking it slow because I’m not a teacher or anything… Usually I’ll just give him a little work, and then the rest of the time is for him to do whatever he wants, because that’s what we’re supposed to do for Lasallian Ministry, is cater towards his needs and not really mine.”

Huitzil-Interian can speak three languages — English, Spanish, and Mayan — and often uses her multilingualism to help others. 

She frequently helps her parents, neighbors, and aunts and uncles, who speak Spanish, in various ways such as translating something or writing things out for them. For example, she has helped others fill out school applications, emails, and invoices for work. 

“It’s something that I’ve been doing forever,” Huitzil-Interian said. “When I started learning how to read and write, that’s when I would fill out crazy applications for my parents. So I’ve been doing that from a young age, and it feels good to help out people.”

Huitzil-Interian spoke passionately about giving back to others. 

“That’s probably something I want to do forever,” she said. “I feel so fulfilled when I give back, and when I help people who… don’t have the opportunity to stand up for themselves.”

In addition to helping others, another of Huitzil-Interian’s values is hard work. 

When thinking about her younger years, she remembers going around apartments in her community and selling home-baked pastries with her mom, who, along with her dad, has always been a role model of work ethic for Huitzil-Interian.

“The thing about my parents is that when they have a goal, they’ll literally work so hard to get it,” she said. “I admire my parents a lot. They’ve gone through a lot, and they’ve struggled a lot, and I’m very proud of the place they’re at now.”

With her parents as examples, Huitzil-Interian learned to “always, always work hard,” she said. “That’s something that my parents have implemented in my life.”

Now, Huitzil-Interian implements hard work in all aspects of her life — at home, at work, and at school.

But, she said, she didn’t always give as much effort to academics as she does now. 

“Around in the area where I live, school is definitely not a priority,” Huitzil-Interian said. “A lot of kids drop out, or a lot of them just graduate and that’s it for them.”

For Huitzil-Interian, she began to care more about academics when she started middle school at St. Andrew Nativity School. There, she said that there were “long school days,” starting at 8 a.m. and ending at 5 p.m., with homework assigned afterwards. 

“It was very intense,” she said. “So, that’s when I started taking school seriously… I’m so happy that a place like St. Andrew’s came into my life, and really taught me the importance of school.”

Huitzil-Interian said that she is motivated by the hard work of her parents and by her experiences at St. Andrew’s. 

“I just want to give back to the people who gave to me,” she said. “I’ve learned that through education, there’s a way out, and there’s a way to progress.”

When Huitzil-Interian first started at La Salle, she found the most challenging aspect to be “trying to fit in,” she said. 

“La Salle is probably not the most diverse place ever,” Huitzil-Interian said. “I feel like my first two years, they were very hard, because I didn’t feel as included… Just dealing with the comments that people would make, and they would think it was not racist, and just people who weren’t informed. And it was just very difficult to deal with those things.”

But now, Huitzil-Interian said, this is no longer the case, and she feels much more included. She has found support from counselor Ms. Maritza Mendez, as well as Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Support Mr. Andrew Yoshihara. 

Ever since Huitzil-Interian began at La Salle, Ms. Mendez has “always helped me with… anything I needed,” Huitzil-Interian said. “Being in Ms. Mendez’s office… When we talk it out, it feels pretty good, because you feel supported and you feel understood.”

Huitzil-Interian also recalled fond memories of spending time with other students in Mr. Yoshihara’s office, where a big group often crammed into the space during lunch period to “have the craziest talks about life or just about anything,” Huitzil-Interian said.

Huitzil-Interian said that she enjoyed this time spent daily in Mr. Yoshihara’s office, as she trusted “everyone who was there.”

“We would all have similar struggles, and we’d always be there to motivate each other, and help each other out, and goof around,” she said. “It was just such a good time.”

She said that during this time, the group would talk about a range of topics, varying between serious and silly based on the day. Sometimes, she said, they discussed ways to make La Salle a more inclusive community.

“When things would go down, we’d talk about how we feel,” Huitzil-Interian said. “And we’d talk about how we can improve ourselves and not get as mad for the things that we can’t control.”

Huitzil-Interian said that this lesson — learning to let go of things that are out of her control — has been an important one throughout her high school years. 

Going into her freshman year, she had a certain set of expectations, a “vision” for how things should go, she said. But now, she said that she has learned “how to move on and not stress over things I can’t control.”

“I was very closed-minded and I had certain thoughts… of La Salle,” Huitzil-Interian said. “I feel like now, I’m more open to growth and to learning about other people’s lives… I think now, I’m very open and ready to learn about anything… That’s one of the mindsets that I went into, and I think it’s helped me out a lot, because now I don’t feel as affected when someone says something out of hand, and I know how to address and control it.”

Huitzil-Interian said that her feelings of exclusion and her struggle to fit in are no longer the case for her experience at La Salle. She has also worked with Ms. Mendez and Mr. Yoshihara, as well as other students, to try to inform others and further advance inclusivity in the school community. 

For example, Huitzil-Interian helped organize informational discussion panels along with Ms. Mendez and the Unidos en Poder club.

“We made different panels for different people to come and learn our culture, and we just did all those informative things so that people can get a glimpse of that little population that’s there at La Salle,” Huitzil-Interian said. 

She said that she is glad to be able to help with events such as these panels in order to cultivate a more inclusive community. 

“One of the things that I feel happy about is that I feel more included and as a part of the La Salle family than I did when I was coming in,” Huitzil-Interian said. “And it was that lack of support that I didn’t have, that now a lot of the kids who are coming in from diverse backgrounds do have. So, I’m pretty happy that they have that base now, and I had to go through that and someone else doesn’t have to go through that when they get to La Salle.”

Huitzil-Interian expressed gratitude for the support that she has received throughout her time at La Salle, especially from Ms. Mendez and Mr. Yoshihara.

“I am so thankful to have people like them at La Salle, because if it weren’t for them, I don’t know how I was going to make it through high school,” Huitzil-Interian said. 

With the help of Ms. Mendez, as well as a graduate support program from St. Andrew’s, Huitzil-Interian is currently working on her college applications, as her post-high school hopes are to become the first person in her family to attend college. 

“It’s the first time anyone in my family does it, so it’s a little different,” she said. “My parents can’t really help me, because they don’t really speak a lot of English. So I’ve been very thankful to have the support from Ms. Mendez and the people from back at St. Andrew’s to help me fill out those applications.”

Huitzil-Interian’s top choice is the University of Oregon, and she is also applying to Western Oregon University, Portland State University, University of Portland, and Oregon State University. 

“I feel very happy that I’m going to go through these obstacles, where I don’t know how to fill something out or I don’t know how to do certain things, [because] when it comes to my siblings, I’ll help them out and they have somewhere to go,” she said. “I hope that they can always rely on me for things like this.”

Huitzil-Interian has two siblings — a 14-year-old sister named Betsy and a 12-year-old brother named Billy. With her close relationship with both her siblings and her parents, Huitzil-Interian said that her family is what she values most in her life. 

“I love them,” she said. “I really do appreciate and love them a lot… I love them so much, I don’t even know how to explain it.”

Bonding with Billy through his workload at St. Andrew’s and with Betsy through fun outings and errands together, Huitzil-Interian said that she also encourages her family members to “continue in school.”

“La Salle has done so much good to me,” she said. “I feel very thankful to go to this school. Even though I’ve had a lot of struggles there, I feel very supported from the people there, and I love the community… La Salle has really motivated me to want more for my life, and to want a different life than what we’re used to here where I live.”

Huitzil-Interian said that her gratitude for her opportunity to attend La Salle motivates her to work hard. 

“Throughout high school, I’ve always been thankful because if I wasn’t on scholarship, I don’t think I would have gone to La Salle,” she said. “Because I’ve been on scholarship, and because I work very hard to receive that scholarship, I think I’ve always been motivated to do well in school.”

Sometimes, it is “difficult” for her to see other people squandering the opportunities that they’re given “because they don’t really care about the things they have,” she said. “I’ve seen a lot of people not value what they have, when someone else is [desperate] for the opportunity.”

As Huitzil-Interian looks forward to graduating and moving on to college, she will carry with her the work ethic of her parents, her love for her siblings, and her struggles and experiences with inclusivity at La Salle. 

Reflecting on her experiences and opportunities, Huitzil-Interian said, “I have this, and I need to cherish it, and I need to use it in order to give back.”