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‘They’re pretty much my role models’

Meet four Area Career Center standouts

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At La Salle-Peru Area Career Center, DePue is the third largest contributor behind La Salle-Peru Township High School and Ottawa High School.

“A lot of their kids are doing very well over here,” said Dwayne Mentgen ACC director. “It really was a game changer for us.”

Here are four standout Hispanic students taking classes at the career center.


Ryan Mondragon is a junior at DePue. He is enrolled in the career center’s automotive class.

Mondragon said he likes that the class is hands-on.

“It’s more of a trial-and-error class,” Mondragon said. “He doesn’t necessarily come out and show you how to do it. He just asks you to do it and try it to see if you can figure it out yourself. Then, if you have any questions, you can ask him.”

Teacher Mike Fisher said Mondragon is a good student.

“He’s really been showing a lot of interest in it, trying hard,” Fisher said. “He’s very cooperative. He’s one that does try really hard and works real well with me. He’s a very good student and keeps a professional attitude out in the shop.”

He learned about cars from a young age from his family. His uncle is a certified mechanic.

“I grew up around cars being fixed between my stepdad and my uncle fixing their cars at home,” Mondragon said. “I try to help out whenever possible. Now, whenever somebody needs help, I can ask them and I can do it for them.”

Mondragon said he wants to attend Universal Technical Institute after high school, which is a school that focuses on auto mechanics.


Ryan Mondragon, a junior at DePue, works on his car during auto class at the  Area Career Center. Mondragon wants to make a career out of fixing cars. He plans on attending Universal Technical Institute after high school.


Aracely Quintana is a senior at DePue. She is enrolled in the Fire Science/EMS class.

Quintana said it is one of her favorite classes and she has learned a lot.

“I think my favorite part was deploying hoses and learning how to do every step to it, being fast,” Quintana said. “You learn how to do CPR. You learn various tasks that you should know.”

Quintana credits her parents with her success.

“My parents are probably why I’m really hard working because they’ve always taught me to be hardworking and disciplined,” she said. “They’re pretty much my role models.”

Teacher Robyn Partain said Quintana is a great student.

“She’s kind, quiet when she’s supposed to be, speaks up when she’s supposed to speak up,” Partain said. “She volunteers a lot in class. We’ll ask for volunteers to be patients and to do procedures. She’s always the first one to volunteer.”

Before taking the class, Quintana was set on joining the army after high school, but now she might become a firefighter.


Aracely Quintana (right) runs through a simulation of treating an injured patient with fellow students Maryn Ellis (left), Isabell Thompson (center) and Devin Masters (the pretend patient) during a class at Area Career Center. Quintana is a DePue senior who is enrolled in the Fire/Science EMS program. After high school, she is considering joining the military or becoming a firefighter.


Diego Madrigal is a senior at DePue. He is enrolled in CAD drafting — computer aided design.

Madrigal said he enjoys the class because there is a lot of drawing in it.

“In this class, you get to design and create whatever might be in your head,” Madrigal said. “In the program we use, you can design out a sculpture or a design of something. You can actually print it out using the 3D printer. I think that’s cool and interesting.”

Madrigal said he learned about programs he didn’t know existed.

“Architects use this stuff to build their buildings,” Madrigal said. “I used to think they just drew it. You can design it a lot. If you have a creative imagination, this will be a good class for you.”

Teacher Andrew Wiercinksi said Madrigal is a joy to have in class.

“He always gives great work,” Wiercinski said. “When we have things that he participates in, he’s normally into it and helping out.”

Madrigal participated in the edible car contest at IVCC.

“His team ended up winning first, second and third throughout a couple different categories,” Wiercinski said. “He kind of took charge in figuring out the name of the group and the creative stuff like that.”

Madrigal plans on attending Illinois Valley Community College, but he has not picked a major yet.


Diego Madrigal of DePue works on designing an energy efficient home during CAD drafting class at Area Career Center. Madrigal is a senior who plans on attending Illinois Valley Community College.


Maria Orozco is a senior at St. Bede. She is enrolled in the Child Care class, which includes a day care program three days a week. Students earn a credential and three college credit hours.

“I’ve always wanted to be a teacher, for as long as I can remember,” Orozco said.

Orozco said family is important to her. She has a half sister who is 12 years older than her, but she always wanted more siblings. She does have many cousins.

“I am a key believer in preschool programs because it gets children out there interacting with other kids, especially if they don’t have anybody at home,” Orozco said.

Child care teacher Barb Rutkowski said Orozco loves kids.

“She’s patient with them. She’s kind,” Rutkowski said. “She relates to the children really well. They are really interested in what she is doing. She has that genuineness that comes through.”

Orozco plans to major in early childhood education at Dominican University.


Maria Orozco (right) interacts with Abby Mize (left) and Addison Delay (center) at the day care run through the child care program at the  Area Career Center on the L-P campus. Orozco is a St. Bede senior who is enrolled in the Child Care class. She wants to pursue a career in early childhood education.


Jordan Havlik works as a reporter covering the City of Peru. He can be reached at (815) 220-6932 or
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