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Diana Gonzalez started kindergarten in Mexico City.

But midway through that year, her mother, Romualda Bessies, decided to move with Diana and her two sisters to Corvallis, in hopes of giving her daughters a better education and a better life.

And Monday will mark the fulfillment of that dream as Gonzalez, the youngest of the three daughters, joins her sisters as graduates of Corvallis High School and follows her sisters into college.

Gonzalez said repaying her mother for working 12-plus hour days in the fields for years to support the family alone was a powerful motivator for her to do well in school.

“I want to repay her by working hard to study and eventually support her,” said Gonzalez.

Gonzalez said after moving to Corvallis she was enrolled in the dual immersion program at Garfield Elementary School.

“Elementary school was hard because I was learning a new language,” she said.

She qualified to move out of English development classes in fifth grade, but has continued to take dual immersion electives through middle and high school and will graduate with a bilingual diploma seal.

Gonzalez said she struggled a bit early in high school, failing a math class.

“Freshman year was hard because I didn’t put that much effort into my math class,” she said.

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But Gonzalez was in the CHS’ AVID college preparation program and was able to gain the study skills to improve in math.

And Gonzalez said she has grown in other ways through high school.

“The biggest challenge for me was my shyness,” she said, saying she didn’t want to speak English because she was afraid of other students making fun of her. However, she and a friend decided to do the Mr. and Ms. Spartan charity fundraising competition this year, which gave her a lot of confidence.

“It really helped me a lot, especially to lose my shyness,” she said.

Amanda Filloy Sharp, who has taught Gonzalez in dual immersion classes at CHS, said Gonzalez has gained confidence throughout high school, but especially this year.

"She has found her voice, and has begun to use it for advocacy, speaking openly about challenges that many students face, but that few are willing to address," Filloy Sharp said. "Diana has always been well-liked by everyone, but this year I have seen her approach friendships and community in a new way, embracing her own role in both academic and social leadership. It has been inspiring to witness her bravery and her personal development."

Gonzalez now plans to enroll at Linn-Benton Community College in the fall, and later transfer to Western Oregon University to become a dual immersion teacher herself to be able to help dual language learners like she was.

“I would tell them to try hard and don’t feel less than other students,” she said of advice she’d give students like herself. “If you try hard and set your goal, you will eventually get there.”

Filloy Sharp said the dual immersion field desperately needs teachers with Gonzalez's background.

"She would be an outstanding liaison for her students and her community, and she would offer invaluable and irreplaceable perspective to any faculty."

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Anthony Rimel covers education and can be reached at anthony.rimel@lee.net, 541-758-9526, or via Twitter @anthonyrimel.

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