- Durham Public Schools
Student of the Month | January 2023 | Humberto Orellana
Humberto Orellana enjoys the written and spoken word, despite a childhood seizure that took away his ability to speak. Now a Senior at Ignite! Online Academy, he enjoys writing poems and crafting stories, a skill he says he’ll use to bring that joy to others.
“A challenge for me was regaining my ability to speak, as I had lost it for several months and spent several years in speech therapy. But by the same token, it became one of my most important successes,” said Humberto.
His English teacher, Taylor White, says he is “an incredibly hard-working student who excels both inside the (digital) classroom and beyond. He is a positive role model for his peers and serves the Ignite! Community through his participation in the Student Leadership Club, willingly taking on additional responsibilities outside of his coursework to help plan events and opportunities for our high school students to connect with one another in virtual and in-person spaces.
Humberto’s mother, Katya Orellana, gushed with pride about her son’s recent honor, saying that he has earned it, from overcoming a speech impediment to experiencing the trauma of a sick parent.
“My husband and I as well as his sisters are so proud of him. I remember when he started kindergarten and did not speak due to his speech disability that was caused by a seizure due to incorrect medication being prescribed when he was just 18 months old. He started speech therapy in kindergarten and graduated from it when he was a freshman in high school. Because of his speech disability, he suffered a lot of bullying. But he didn't let it deter him from continuing to do his best in school.
“We've seen him go from a quiet child who loved Math and History to the young man he's become. This past year wasn't easy for us because my husband had a very unexpected 4 bypasses open heart surgery and that took a toll on the kids even though they tried to stay strong for their dad. We admire Humberto because in spite of certain events he always gives his best as a student and as a son and brother. He goes beyond what is asked of him especially in school. Humberto said he subsisted on making lists every day in order to be productive.
“I didn't work, but instead I made a daily to-do list which created a routine. By having a routine, managing my time more wisely was easier, and that helped create a school-home balance that allowed me time to properly do my schoolwork, while also having enough time set aside to spend quality time with my family, exercising and other hobbies,” he said.
In addition to his family, Humberto said Star Wars creator George Lucas is one of his greatest influencers.
“He created such a gigantic franchise that few to no people believed in prior to its release. Regardless, he put his heart and soul into it, and now that franchise is cherished by many. This made me believe that even if no one supports you, if you are confident in what you do, you can succeed.”
Humberto plans to attend college and simply pursue his passion. While he would love to attend Duke University, he says he’s keeping his options open in and outside of the state of North Carolina. His passionate pursuit is a bachelor's degree in English Literature so that he can “write stories and create characters that people will cherish and relate to and inspire others by doing what I am passionate about. I'd also love to contribute to my community and help create literature programs for people of all ages and backgrounds. Through these programs I want to show the countless possibilities that surpass reading and writing. It expands beyond that. Its (English Literature’s) versatility allows it to be used not just across different fields, but personally as well.”
He further explains that English Literature can be used as a form of expression or as a way to create collaborative partnerships in different areas from screenwriting to songwriting to writing medical journals, and more.
“I want to help people unlock the endless and limitless possibilities that will help them create and innovate the world around them through literature or simply enjoy what literature is.”
He’s motivated to succeed by the opportunity to “build my story in the world and make accomplishments that will make my loved ones proud, and to have a better life and to be able to inspire others.”
For this DPS student, his purpose is to inspire others.
For now, he says, “personally, my biggest accomplishment was regaining my ability to speak. Academically, it was being named The DPS Student of the Month, as this is not just for me but for every student that gives their best either in person or virtually.
“We can't wait to see what his future holds for him,” said his mother.