The Merced College Board of Trustees honored Merced College Student of the Year Blanca Ceja-Salas at Tuesday evening’s board meeting.

The promising photographer, whose works have been selected by the Art Department to be displayed in the Administration Building, is set to graduate from the College next week with a 3.7 GPA and an Associate of Arts degree in Photography.

Ceja-Salas’ accomplishments are impressive unto themselves, but are made even more so when considering that English is her third language. She was born deaf in Mexico and grew up learning American Sign Language and Spanish. She was first introduced to English when she started grade school and has relied on ASL interpreters throughout her life.

“To have Blanca be the Student of the Year is an impressive flag for what Merced College is and how it transforms lives,” Board of Trustees President Carmen Ramirez said. “We know students come here, they prepare themselves and they move on. But for Merced College to be the kind of place where someone that’s not your typical student can come in and not just do OK, but do something amazing, speaks to the kind of campus we have.

“Blanca hasn’t just overcome physical limitations, but language barriers and immigration issues as well. She’s an amazing young woman and we’re proud to have her as the Student of the Year.”

Ceja-Salas was eligible for Student of the Year after being named Merced College’s Student of the Month for April. She was congratulated by the board and given a certificate to commemorate the achievement. Ceja-Salas hopes to use the skills she’s developed at the College to become an animal photographer and dreams of one day working at the San Diego Zoo.

“Blanca was very inspiring to me, because I could relate to her journey,” Board of Trustees Vice President Ernie Ochoa said. “She came over to this country from Mexico, like I did, and I’m very proud of her accomplishments. I only wish I could have done half of what’s she’s already done.

“I expect nothing but a bright future for our Student of the Year.”