The fact that Grecia Gonzalez's favorite high school class was also her most difficult should say volumes about her work ethic and personality.

Of course she still aced the class, which happened to be AP biology.

But for the Nogales High School senior, the fact that she achieved a 4.6 GPA and was accepted to Harvard is secondary to how her success has reflected on her parents sacrifice. Her parents immigrated to the United States from Nicaragua in 1980 during a particularly tumultuous period in the country's political history.

"My motivation mainly comes from my parents," Gonzalez, 17, said. "My parents sacrificed a lot to give me the opportunity to live here, go to school and do whatever I want. Doing as well in school as I can is the only thing I can do to return that gift."

However, this is a girl who clearly enjoys the academic experience. She doesn't consider the many late nights of studying to be a sacrifice on her part. After all, a 4.6 GPA is the highest possible for a senior at Nogeles. She took every possible IB and AP course available — and got an "A" in every one.

"Everyone has those moments where they wish they didn't have to bother anymore, but after doing so many of these classes you get to the point where you start liking it," the La Puente girl said. "You don't really mind the work, and you see the value in doing it."

She was accepted to all 11 top universities where she applied, including Harvard, Yale,

Princeton and Cornell. Cal Poly Pomona accepted her without her even applying.

But Gonzalez chose Harvard, mainly because of her positive experience there last summer when she took a sociology class for college credit. She also loves the East Coast, saying that it has a "different culture" to it.

Her acceptance into Harvard might also have something to do with her recently being awarded the Seymour Award by the California Scholarship Federation (CSF) for her outstanding community service, leadership and scholastic achievements.

Although Gail Lindenberg, CSF co-advisor and English teacher at Nogales who nominated her for the award, said Gonzalez would have been accepted to Harvard regardless of that. Patricia Penrose, the other CSF co-advisor, also nominated Gonzalez.

"She just stands out, and is just a remarkable young woman," Lindenberg said. "She's expected to do well, but she lays that expectation on herself. Kids like Grecia are what make this job worthwhile."

The CSF service club emphasizes high standards of scholarship and community service for California high school students. Gonzalez was the president of the Nogales chapter of the CSF, and chaired many community service projects.

The CSF Seymour Award recognizes 50 outstanding students from more than 1,000 CSF chapters and approximately 100,000 CSF student members.

The 50 students are then whittled down to 12, who are then interviewed before a committee for a $2,500 scholarship and the Seymour Award. The students who Gonzalez was up against had an average GPA of 4.7.

"We have never had a Seymour Scholar from Rowland Unified, so this is quite an honor for Grecia and our district," Lindenberg said. "She was up against some very tough competition from schools throughout Southern California and took the top honors."

Gonzalez is a full International Baccalaureate Diploma candidate, and is a National Merit Commended Scholar.

She has also played violin in the school orchestra all four years, and currently holds the position of first chair.

Outside of school, Gonzalez said she enjoys swimming and reading.

Graduating in June, she plans to go on to study molecular biology and genetics at Harvard.

When asked about her long-term career goals, Gonzalez said she wanted to study ways in which to regulate the population of jellyfish in the world's oceans.

daniel.fritz@sgvn.com

(626) 962-8811, Ext. 2201