IM this article to a friend!

June 4, 2004

'It's very rewarding to be out there helping people'

From: North County Times, CA - Jun 4, 2004


VISTA ---- For many teens, waking up at the crack of dawn to help repaint a stranger's home or spending time on Christmas or Thanksgiving to feed the homeless is not their idea of a good time.

Yet for Angela Ortiz, an unassuming 17-year-old Vista High School student who does these activities and more, volunteering is a wonderful and fulfilling part of life.

"It's very rewarding to be out there and helping people," said Angela, who is being recognized by the North County Times as one of 10 Students of Merit for her volunteerism, excellent academic marks, extracurricular activities and leadership among peers.

Angela is just one example of one of the remarkable people nominated for the awards and selected by a panel of business people, educators and newspaper staffers. She will receive a $500 scholarship from the newspaper.

"She is an extremely intelligent, kind and compassionate young woman with many talents," according to instructor Barbara Marks.

Marks was one of four teachers who wrote letters of recommendation for Angela, noting that the shy girl with big, brown eyes and dark brown hair is a leader among students, constantly volunteering her time and working hard on academics.

"That's what I need to do; it's a part of life," Angela said in a quiet voice, adding that her two brothers, David and Kevin, set wonderful examples for her by also working hard at school and sports and achieving great success.

Kevin Ortiz graduated from high school with a 4.38 grade-point average, although he is severely hearing-impaired. Her brother's hearing disability prompted Angela to master the art of sign language, a talent that she plans to use in a career teaching special education students.

When Angela signs, her eyes light up, her hands move with expertise and her lips move slightly, mouthing the words she is creating in the air. She uses her signing knowledge in volunteer work through her membership with the American Sign Language Club.

In addition to her brothers' achievements, her parents' constant love and encouragement and a strong Catholic upbringing have helped shape her personality, she said.

When asked to describe herself, Angela responds without hesitation: "Honest, responsible, friendly, patient, dedicated."

"I hang out with a group that's really focused in school," she said. "I know I am going to do well in the future. I don't need to go out and party every day."

Angela has spent the past 12 years playing soccer, including all four years of high school and in the Vista Soccer Club.

She has a 3.85 grade-point average, and is ranked 86th out of 667 seniors. Other activities include the school's Swing Dance Club, Interact Club and California Scholarship Federation. She received the Rotary International Youth Leadership Award in 2003 and the Vista High School Scholar-Athlete Award for the last two school years.

Her volunteer work includes helping feed the homeless through St. Francis Catholic Church, gathering winter clothes for the homeless, participating in the Vistans R.O.C. program refurbishing homes in low-income neighborhoods, helping at the Special Olympics and donating time to the North County Humane Society.

Angela plans to attend Cal State San Marcos this fall, where she will pursue a bachelor's degree in liberal studies, then a teaching credential and master's degree.

"It's Angela's turn," said Ed Ortiz about his daughter's time for recognition after his sons, who also graduated from Vista High School, earned numerous academic scholarships.

Ed Ortiz nominated his daughter "not so much for what she's accomplished, but she is just a real nice person," he said. "She's not cut-throat. She's just loving, calm, patient. She'll be a great teacher."

Contact staff writer Jennifer Kabbany at (760) 631-6622 or

© 1997-2004 North County Times - Lee Enterprises