Photo by Edgar Artiga.


Christian Joya Melgar

Senior, Rockville High School

Early in his sophomore year at Rockville High School, Christian Joya Melgar had an experience that altered the course of his life.

The son of Salvadoran immigrants, Christian had spent his first eight years of school in English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) classes and was often bullied. He says he started high school “goofing around in classes and getting straight C’s in on-level classes.”

But when he visited his cousin at the University of Maryland, something clicked for Christian, now a 17-year-old senior.


“I realized if I kept acting the way I was acting, I would be working 12-hour shifts and two jobs like my parents, which is not what they want for me,” Christian says. “And I realized that just because I’d acted one way in the past didn’t mean things had to stay that way.”

The Rockville teen enrolled in his school’s International Baccalaureate Career Program for his junior year. He started getting up at 4 a.m. to take boot camp classes at the Soldierfit gym in Rockville, eventually losing 45 pounds. He set his sights on becoming a teacher.

His first year of AP and IB classes was rocky, and he often visited his counselor’s office in tears, wanting to drop out. Still, he completed his junior year with a 3.61 GPA. “He sought help and persevered,” Rockville High School IB Coordinator Laurie Ainsworth says.


As a senior, Christian is student-teaching a third-grade class at the Barrie School in Silver Spring as part of a child development internship. He has participated in theater at his school and in leadership activities through CASA de Maryland, a Langley Park-based organization that advocates for Latino and immigrant residents.

“I see myself as a very unique role model for kids,” he says. “I want to help those who look down on themselves to see themselves differently, so they can succeed.”

Christian will attend Bucknell University in Pennsylvania on a full academic scholarship.