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Reagan High senior becomes first to graduate in his family; earns full ride to Marquette

Posted at 10:26 PM, May 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-17 08:55:37-04

MILWAUKEE — A Reagan High School senior is pioneering a new future for himself and his family as the first to graduate high school and earn a full ride to Marquette University.

Zabdiel Pozos-Lopez immigrated to the U.S at the age of four from Nicaragua, knowing no English.

"That was scary and I say 'oh my god, it's the language!' I don't know nothing to speak English," said Zabdiel's mother, Arlene Lopez.

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With the help of ESL classes, Zabdiel picked up English and began to excel academically, landing him a seat at Reagan High School's IB program, one of the top schools in the city.

From a very young age, Zabdiel knew he wanted to pursue a career in dentistry.

"I planned it out for myself and I was like I need to do this," said Zabdiel.

But he knew it wouldn't be easy.

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"The amount of poverty that my family has faced. It's been very independent, I really had to take things up on my own and find my own path," said Zabdiel.

Zabdiel joined the Youth Apprenticeship Program that's designed to pair MPS students with employers in various work environments of their choice.

"It's intended to help young people try out a career while they're still in high school, earn credit, earn a paycheck, learn skills and get their foot in the door," said Terri Salzer, a regional coordinator for the program.

Students are able to learn how to build a resume, experience a standard job interview process and practice elevator pitches.

"We inform and then we help prepare them and then we connect them," said Salzer.

An opportunity arose very quickly for Zabdiel at the Dental Associates in Franklin, where he was able to work as a Dental Technician, gaining first-hand skills.

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"I had so much fun, taking wires off, putting them on. It was just incredible because not a lot of people get that experience," said the senior.

The soon-to-be graduate is set to go on to Marquette University this fall on a full-ride. He was awarded the Urban's Scholarship as well as the Pre-Dental Scholarship that allows students to finish dental school in seven years as opposed to the traditional eight.

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