KPIX 5 Students Rising Above

by Sherry Hu and Christina Arce

(KPIX 5) — A Bay Area student who initially balked at overseas study because of concerns about her ailing father had a change of heart after her father gave her the thumbs-up.

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According to Dariana Zermeño Huerta of the Students Rising Above Class of 2015, “It’s unbelievable that I went from this little cooped-up thing to what I am today.”

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Dariana’s first big leap was from Middle College High in San Pablo to the University of California, Merced.

Next jump: study abroad, an opportunity she almost decided to pass up because of her father because he’s been battling cancer.

The decision was a struggle that she went back and forth with her SRA adviser about. “I was like, no, two-and-a-half hours [to UC Merced] is enough, I can’t deal with it,” Dariana recalled. “If I do go halfway across the world, what am I going to do? I’m gonna go crazy. I’m not going to see my parents and I’m gonna freak out.”

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To Dariana, her father is her motivation, backbone, and hero. The bond is deep. Instead of going crazy, she sat down and talked to him about the trip.

“He smiled and that warmed up my heart,” she said. To her surprise, her father thought it was a great idea. “I said what? What just happened? And I was like, really? And he said ‘yeah, why not?’”

Her first choice was Mexico, but her father encouraged her to venture further. Now, she is splitting her time between Italy and Spain, to learn about Mediterranean food, culture, and politics.

But the real lesson, it seems, is what Dariana discovered about herself.

“I’m learning I don’t have to carry the weight of the world on my shoulders.”

If you ask Dariana now if she’s adventurous, you’d know the answer.

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“When one door closes, you look for another way to find it.” she laughed, “That didn’t even make sense, but it’s okay because I’m happy and I’m excited! And I can’t wait for whatever’s next to come for me.”