Major achievement for Riverdale High School graduates

FRESNO, Calif.

"Both of these students have turmoil in their backgrounds and so many kids use that as an excuse. They say this happened to me so I can't be successful," said AVID teacher Sierra Girling. "They (Eduardo and Diana) have taken their adversity and said nothing can take me down."

Eduardo comes from a family that emigrated from Mexico. During the summer break, he worked in the fields alongside his father harvesting blueberries and bagging garlic to save money for his education.

"You're burning your skin, the sun is scorching, it's very difficult and I feel like I could do it, because I have a mindset, I have a goal," he said.

His goal was to prove to his parents that getting an education is important for his future.

He said, it wasn't until he came home during the school year, his real work began. The senior class president and member of several campus clubs, also cared for the farm animals and his younger brother; often rising at 5 am to catch a two hour bus ride from Five Points.

"I was involved in so many things even now people always ask me, how do I find time? And sometimes I only slept one or two hours a day," he said

Diana Valencia says competition with her classmate and a promise to her mother propelled her to do well in school. The honor student and founder of the campus environmental club comes from a family of seven. She said she stepped into her mother's shoes after she passed away during her sophomore year.

"I'd go home, cook, clean and then afterwards I'd do my homework, and at times I'd stay up until one in the morning doing homework, but it was all worth it because I'm ranked sixth in the class."

Despite their difficulties, both students never let their responsibilities at home impede their progress towards graduating or reaching their maximum potential. Both were awarded a $20,000 scholarship from Dell, a $1,000 scholarship from the Foundation of Riverdale Schools and Eduardo scored an additional $20,000 in a very competitive scholarship from Coca-Cola.

"It was a lot of writing," said Valencia. "We had to write like eight essays, but it was all worth it. Now, I'm ranked 6th in my graduating class."

"It feels amazing you know? Just going through so many things and waiting for this moment," added Eduardo.

Eduardo said being the first in his family to go to college opened his parents' eyes to the importance of education. He said, when he was younger, they urged to him to find work in the fields rather than pursue a degree.

Now he plans to study Earth and Environmental Science at the University of California Irvine when he starts in the fall and has dreams of becoming a teacher.

Diana said she plans to pursue a degree in English at the University of California Los Angeles with the intention of becoming an author or editor of a magazine.

Proof hard work truly pays off.

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