The first two years, however, are a different story. Most of Marilyn's time was spent on the couch.
"Before my family moved [to Colorado from California], I was a couch potato," Marilyn said. "Then a mentor of mine really encouraged me to start volunteering and get involved. I got to know people, and it all changed."
Not only did the 17-year-old's extracurricular activities change, but her motivation at school also changed. While Marilyn admits she was once in the lowest language and math classes, she is now enrolled in AP and Honors classes. She knows college is not out of reach, even if English is not a student's first language.
Marilyn's success has motivated her to encourage her peers that college is never out of reach, despite your background or your classroom grades. Her volunteer work in helping high school students reach for their dreams is why she has been named one of the 2010 9Kids Who Care.
Marilyn's early struggle to learn English inspired her to bridge the achievement gap in the St. Vrain Valley School District. It also made her realize how difficult it is to both find financial aid for college and get the attention of college recruiters.
"When I got here, I didn't know anybody and was [looking for scholarships] by myself," Marilyn said. "Some people think they can't go to college because of money. They don't know about programs like College in Colorado or FAFSA."
Her experiences and struggles have empowered her to volunteer and make a difference for others. She has taken leadership roles as the co-chair of the Longmont Youth Council, co-chair of Sharing Achievement for Student Success in Education (SASSE), and in People Engaged in Raising Leaders. The programs focus on, but are not limited to, families where English is not the first language or in which there are first-generation college students.
Marilyn also recruits students to take action and volunteer in their community, which catches the eyes of college scholarship boards and changes the way her peers look at social and civic engagement.
"It just feels good to help," Marilyn said. "Some people have told me, 'Thank you so much for doing this.' It just feels good that they tell you that."
(KUSA-TV © 2010 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)