By Dominic Garcia

DENVER (CBS4) – Not too many high school seniors have had a journey like Sara Gebretsadik.

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Sara Gebretsadik (credit: CBS)

The South High School senior moved to the United States from Ethiopia when she was 10 years old, and the transition wasn’t easy.

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(credit: Sara Gebretsadik)

“I didn’t know the language. I hated the food. I didn’t know what was going on, so it was really tough transitioning,” she told CBS4’s Dominic Garcia.

Gebretsadik said things started to change as she made friends, and mentors took her under their wing. But she says the biggest change came when she started going to South High School.

”It celebrates everyone’s individuality. Being an immigrant, being a person of color. This school just celebrates my culture, who I am, and embraces me for who I am,” said Gebretsadik.

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CBS4’s Dominic Garcia interviews Gebretsadik. (credit: CBS)

She is now headed to college, the first in her family, along with many others.

Denver Public Schools is celebrating huge increases in college enrollment rates. College enrollment for the Class of 2017 was the largest in DPS history, with 2,297 graduates – 51 percent – enrolling in college in the fall immediately following graduation.

That’s a five percentage point increase from the Class of 2016, and the largest increase in the last 12 years.

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(credit: CBS)

At South High School, a whopping 95 percent of the school’s class of 2017 enrolled in either a two- or four-year college or the military.

“I think there’s just an understanding for people my age that they know education is really important,” Gebrestadik said.

According to DPS officials, jobs requiring training beyond high school are growing three times as fast as jobs requiring only a high school diploma. By 2020, 74 percent of all Colorado jobs will require education beyond high school.

Dominic Garcia anchors CBS4 News at 5 p.m. and reports for CBS4 News at 10 p.m. Connect with the Denver native on Twitter @cbs4dom & on Facebook.

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