Senior Snapshots | Juan Vasquez

Meet another student in our Senior Snapshots series, which offers a look at some of the New York teenagers getting their diplomas this month.

Six out of 10 New York City public school students graduate on time. For some kids, just getting a diploma is a big deal, but others breeze through school and need extra challenges.

Eighteen-year-old Juan Vasquez said his desire to challenge himself is why he signed up for Advanced Placement classes at his high school, the Bronx Center for Science and Mathematics.

"When I'm taking a simple class or an easy class I don't really get into it because I don't have to do much to pass in order to do well," the Bronx teen said. "And that's when the AP's came in. They were extremely hard and they kept my mind occupied, kept me occupied, after school, even before school, during school — always occupied."

Vasquez's high school is relatively small, and encourages kids to take college-level classes. But he got more than he bargained for when he took AP history as a sophomore.

"That was unbelievable," he said. "I mean, I went from freshman world history to college world history in one year. ... That's what made it so hard. We're learning from the earliest history in China to earliest history in Rome, to the earliest history in America, to the more modern history, it was everything."

Vasquez took more AP classes in biology and English, which was one of his toughest courses. He also joined the baseball team and performed in school plays. His chemistry teacher told him to work hard and play hard.

"She just always told us that she had a good, great balance," he said. "But what she always did was work extremely hard, get everything done, and once everything was done she would go out and have as much fun as possible."

He's aiming to keep that balance this fall at Vanderbilt University. He won a full scholarship from the Posse Foundation. Vasquez's older brother attends college in the Bronx, and his Dominican-born mother has returned to school for a bachelor's degree, so he said they're all in the same boat.

"We might end up taking very similar classes and talking about it when I come back during my break and helping each other out," he said.

Vasquez doesn't know what classes he'll take, but he's already thinking ahead. He said he wants to go to business school when he's done with college.