Pedro Morales, our 2018 'Amazing Kid,' challenges himself while helping to teach fellow students.

STAFF PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER OERTELL - Sixteen-year-old Pedro Morales, this year's News-Times Amazing Kid, plans to be the first in his family to attend college. Pedro Morales works hard every day to pursue his dream of being the first in his family to go to college, and the Forest Grove High School sophomore chooses to spend his time after school tutoring fellow students to guide them there as well.

"If someone wants to learn, that's the beauty of school," Morales said. "They want to come to school, they want to learn, and they want to study and go to college."

Morales also helps support his single mother, who is going back to school, he says, by taking care of his younger sisters and helping them with schoolwork.

His teachers saw him as a supportive student early on, Morales said, and recommended him to others for assistance.

"Despite challenging life circumstances, Pedro is determined to make his dream of attending a four-year college a reality, and he has thrived at FGHS," said teacher Ali Marks, who recommended him as a 2018 Amazing Kid. "He challenges himself to take rigorous courses and advocates for his success and the success of others."

View the Pamplin Media Group's 2018 Amazing Kids publication in a flipping book format.

Marks said between Morales' freshman and sophomore years, she saw him transition into someone she views as a college student.

"He was clearly a student who was putting in a lot of time," she observed.

The skills Morales developed through his hard work led him to see the value of his educational path.

"Because he had that deeper understanding, he shared it with others. Kids started to come to him," Marks said. "Kids depend on him."

Morales was part of the first Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) group, an elective course at Forest Grove High that provides nontraditional and underrepresented students a chance to hone the skills that prepare them for college.

"He likes to work hard, take really hard classes," said AVID classmate Maria Plancarte, who has known Morales since she was very young. "He can struggle, but he knows how to push to the limit, and he really has that talent to be around other people and help."

For another classmate, Janelle Neyman, Morales' work ethic and personality stand out.

"I've seen him help other people, including me, calm down when we don't understand something, and that is so helpful. He's a great guy," Neyman said.

STAFF PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER OERTELL - Pedro Morales (center) poses for a photo with AVID classmates at Forest Grove High School. Morales is recognized by his teachers and peers as a leader and role model who is always willing to help out in any way he can.

Morales said the countless hours he's spent assisting others comes naturally.

"It's just (about) helping other people regardless," he said, "no matter what it is."

To Marks, his teacher, "that history of resilience and grit, and using that history to help others and make the world better, is pretty powerful."

Read more about the Pamplin Media Group's 2018 Amazing Kids honorees.

Morales said that being named the News-Times' 2018 Amazing Kid "doesn't change a thing" for him.

"Even without this," he said, "I would still be the same person I am today."

With dreams of attending Linfield College in McMinnville, Morales said, "I'm looking forward to making my sister proud and my teachers proud for how far I've come."

Marks already is proud.

"Pedro is truly an inspiration," Marks said. "He is the kind of student teachers wake up every morning excited to teach. He's just amazing."STAFF PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER OERTELL - Pedro Morales points with a pencil as he explains a geometry concept to fellow students in his AVID class at Forest Grove High School.

Editor's note: This story is adapted from a feature that originally appeared in the 2018 Amazing Kids publication produced by the Pamplin Media Group, the News-Times' parent company.

By Olivia Singer
Reporter, Forest Grove News-Times and Hillsboro Tribune
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Follow Olivia at @oliviasingerr
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