Fresno High valedictorian left Puerto Rico after hurricane

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A young woman who left Puerto Rico after a devastating hurricane is now graduating as the valedictorian at Fresno High School. (KFSN)

As Fresno High seniors prepare for graduation night, one student's journey to get here began out of tragedy.

Shaymany Suarez's life was turned upside down last September after Hurricane Maria rocked her native country of Puerto Rico, destroying her home and everything she knew.

Friends helped her family escape the devastation for an opportunity to live in the Central Valley, and Monday Shaymany graduated as a warrior.

Shaymany said, "I thought coming here was my last chance." She made the most of that chance. Not only will she graduate from Fresno High, but she'll do so as valedictorian.

"I never planned on valedictorian. I never thought I was going to be one I just focused on my grades and always get them up."

Shaymany will graduate with a GPA over 4.0, but her achievements were not just in the classroom, she was a leader on the basketball court as well. Shaymany was named team MVP after leading the Warriors to their best finish in school history.

"On the court, she was a natural born leader," said Interim Principal Bryan Wells. "Being able to direct an offense and know how to move kids around and hold them accountable for their exploits."

College recruiters also took notice. Her talent helped land her a full ride scholarship offer to attend Presbyterian College in South Carolina.

"I'm going to major in biology," said Suarez. "I think its going to be hard for me so I have to be focused and basketball is going to next level, so I have to be focused on basketball and my academics."

What makes her achievements all the more impressive is that Shaymany arrived on campus two months into the school year.

"Having someone come in from a different part of the world, with a different school system behind them, and to acclimate themselves like Shay did is unbelievable," said Wells.

Classmate Savana Floyd calls her an inspiration, "It was hard for her to adjust to the language and everything but she was really good about it. She asked a lot of questions to make sure she was saying things right."

Shaymany walked with her Fresno High senior class Monday night, an incredible feat that once seemed improbable, knowing just how far she's come.

"I didn't have expectations," said Suarez. "In Puerto Rico, I thought my senior year was over, so coming here I only wanted to finish my senior year, I only wanted to graduate."
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educationfresno unified school districtgradsgraduationpuerto ricohurricane mariaFresno - Central
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