Robbinsdale Area Schools

Highview’s Brianna Vizcarra celebrates emotional graduation; plans bright future

Highview’s Brianna Vizcarra celebrates emotional graduation; plans bright future

Brianna Vizcarra has a lot to celebrate. Although she officially graduated in January, she walked across the stage and received her diploma June 3 during Cooper High School’s commencement ceremony – a moment made even more special by the presence of her mother, who had been in Mexico for eight years and missed witnessing Brianna's older brothers graduate.

"It was a really good experience," Brianna said. "It was a proud moment! My mom was here and able to see me."

Brianna’s educational journey has been anything but typical. Born in the U.S., she moved to Mexico with her mother at the age of three after her mother was deported. Brianna returned to Minnesota in third grade, learning English as she navigated the challenges of moving back and forth between two countries. Despite being held back a year due to these transitions, Brianna was determined to excel.

"In my mind, I was going to graduate early," she said. "Being held back – it wasn’t because I wasn’t smart enough."

By sixth grade, Brianna was out of English Learner (EL) programming, thanks in large part to her English teacher, Miss Williams, at Robbinsdale Middle School. "Thanks to her, I learned to read and write in English really well. By high school, I was already getting good grades in English."

English quickly became Brianna’s favorite subject. "I love writing. It’s a hobby and I’m a storyteller. It lets me put my emotions out there," she shared.

Brianna's ambition and drive led her to see about graduating early from Robbinsdale Academy-Highview. "I needed to help my parents and not have the responsibility to go to school each day," she explained. With the support of the staff, including Sarah Gaustad, the enrollment coordinator at Highview, she completed her remaining credits in English and government, allowing her to graduate in January.

“Brianna is an excellent example of what a Highview graduate looks like. She is internally motivated to break down barriers and accomplish her goals,” Gaustad said. “Students like Brianna remind me everyday of how lucky I am to be here.”

Even though she graduated in January, Brianna was determined to take part in Cooper’s commencement ceremony (Highview students participate in their graduation ceremony for their home school) because she wanted her mother to be able to see her.

“It was really nice to be able to have her see me do that. It meant the world to her,” she said.

Currently, Brianna works at Nordstrom as a makeup artist. She also started her own makeup business in April, realizing a dream she has had since she was three years old.

"What I started doing was working a job and saving money to start my business," Brianna said. "I’ve always wanted to be a makeup artist. For me, it was something I needed to fight for."

Looking ahead, Brianna plans to continue her work in cosmetology, but also wants to secure a position as an EL tutor with Robbinsdale Area Schools. "I want to help others like I was helped. It’s something that I’m being called to do. I know there are kids who are afraid to speak English in public like I was,” she said. “I want to help them step out of their comfort zone."

Brianna is also thinking about enrolling in a small business program at North Hennepin Community College. Her long-term goal is to become a salon owner, exploring various aspects of the cosmetology industry.

“(Brianna’s) hard work will benefit not only herself and her family, but the larger community,” Gaustad said. “Her potential is without limits.”