Imagine submerging yourself in a cold classroom, with nothing but your thoughts to guide you through the day. Imagine struggling to communicate with your teacher to explain that you don’t belong. That is how Nathalia Ortega felt when her family relocated from Colombia to the United States.
“I didn’t know any English, and all I remember was going to the bathroom to cry or telling the nurse through hand gestures that my throat hurt so I could go home,” says Ortega on starting school in the U.S.
These were the struggles that pushed Ortega to strive to succeed, and land the opportunities she will have this summer: participating in a language immersion course in France and interning with a state judge.
“[My family] always instilled in me that to achieve your dreams and be a successful person you have to go out and look for what you want and not wait for it to come to you,” she says.
Ortega will begin her summer interning with Judge Arlene Backman in Florida, spend July in France, and end back with Judge Backman for the remainder of her internship.
“Sitting in a courtroom all day may sound boring to some, but I am really looking forward to learning everything I can from Judge Backman,” says Ortega.
Name: Nathalia Ortega
School: North Broward Preparatory School
Hometown: Bogota, Colombia
Favorite activities: I love traveling to foreign countries, going to concerts, snowboarding, watching NFL Dolphins games, spending the day at the beach, and reading.
I’m passionate about: Service. Having grown up in a financially stable household, I sometimes forget how blessed I am not only to have a house and food, but to be healthy and relatively care-free. Being involved in different service projects allows me to make a difference in peoples’ lives, people who truly need and appreciate the assistance. I love the feeling of satisfaction when just one person is so thankful to you for helping them make Halloween candy bags or for bringing a homemade meal. It’s such an insignificant amount of time you spend doing the action, but it brings so much happiness to someone else.
What my summer has in store: The highlight of my summer is based around the immersion program I will be attending in France and an internship I have with 17th Judicial Circuit Court of Florida Judge Arlene Backman. During the majority of July I will be in Montpellier for an academic language program studying French through every day interactions, as well as classes in French History and Culture and International Relations. My internship with Judge Backman will begin before I leave to France and will continue when I am back. I will be attending different hearings and sentences, and observing the job of a Judge on a daily basis. In August, I will be attending a Student Government leadership conference in New York as the Student Government Executive Secretary of my school, alongside the other executive members.
My inspiration: Both of my parents. Everything they’ve gone through to be the people they are today always makes me strive to be a better person. My parents moved from a different country just to make my life and my sisters’ lives better. Everything I do, I hope to make them proud because of all the sacrifices they made for me. Leaving everything they had in Colombia, their family, friends, and established life to start all over here just for out benefit is truly the most amazing thing anyone has ever done for me.
Short-term plan: I want to host a one mile walk for a non-profit I work closely with called A Spring of Hope during my junior year. I hope to finish my remaining two years of high school on a high note and attend a prestigious college.
In 10 years, I see myself: As a lawyer involved in politics somehow. I am not quite sure what type of lawyer I want to be but I do know that I want to be involved in the government and eventually be able to become part of the decision-making branches of the government, like Congress. I hope to have traveled most of the world by then and have started a non-profit with my sister.