Meet Diana Garay: Golden Hands Foretold Her Success
Being valedictorian of your college graduating class is a notable achievement for any student.
But for Diana Garay, a Peruvian immigrant who spoke no English when she came to the U.S. only three years ago, the accomplishment is remarkable.
“Obtaining this recognition proved that I am capable of more in life, and I could not be prouder of myself,” said Diana.
A valedictorian in the Class of 2020, Diana graduates with a perfect 4.0 GPA and receives her Associate in Arts Degree in Liberal Arts/Humanities with highest honors. She will transfer with a full-tuition scholarship award to Rutgers Newark to pursue her bachelor’s degree in political science with a minor in international relations to prepare for a career as an international lawyer.
Though Diana now feels that all her hard work was worth it, she admits the struggle was sometimes so challenging, she even considered giving up and returning to Peru.
“Going to high school in Peru, I never had great ambitions for my future,” Diana wrote in a college essay. When her parents decided to come to the U.S., Diana joined them, but reluctantly, unsure of how she would adjust to the unfamiliar country.
Although that was in 2017, Diana believes her journey to the U.S. actually started on Christmas 2014. It was then that her grandmother, stricken with Alzheimer’s and unable to even recognize her grandchildren, looked at Diana and said, “Wawa, tus manos valen oro,” You are the baby with golden hands.
Diana did not comprehend the meaning of those words at the time, but she now understands they were a prophecy of her future success. “My grandmother had unwavering faith in me,” said Diana.
Three years later, Diana was unhappy in her new country, frustrated by the language barrier and cultural differences in America. One night, she cried herself to sleep and had a prophetic dream. “My grandmother appeared to me and asked, ‘Te vas rendir? Are you giving up?,’” said Diana. “She was staring at me, holding my hands. Hands she believed in. It felt like the beginning of a challenge.”
Months later, Diana returned to Peru for a visit and learned she had been accepted to one of the most prestigious universities there. “It was my chance to get back,” she said. “ It was my chance to get what I was crying and begging for every night.” She turned it down and returned to the U.S.
There were still struggles and obstacles, even anti-immigrant remarks from some people, but Diana faced them with renewed determination.
“I pushed forward, to prove to myself as much as to any of those people that I belonged here,” she said.
“PCCC lit my path,” said Diana. She enrolled in English language classes first, then went on to college-level studies, excelling in every course. A participant in the Honors Program, the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, and the College newspaper, Diana became involved in community service and also worked two part-time jobs.
Overcoming the challenges of life in America inspired Diana to reach even higher. “For the first time in my life, I had the desire to do something important with my future – to find a way to help people,” she said.
As an international lawyer, Diana hopes to work in the United Nations. “I also want to form a non-profit to serve less fortunate people,” she added. “In honor of my grandmother.”
Written by Linda Telesco