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Ana Maria Diego's faith: ‘Impressive, inspiring'

June 02, 2001|By KELLY GRANT, Staff Writer

CALEXICO — By most accounts, Ana Maria Diego is a happy person, but her smile Saturday glowed brighter than usual.

Diego, along with nearly 50 other seniors, had just graduated from Vincent Memorial High School during a service at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church that morning.

Her smiles, however, are hard won.

First, there was the death of her father when Diego was 7 years old. Then this native Spanish speaker and Mexicali resident had to learn English so she could attend American schools. Because of lines at the border, even the daily commute to and from school isn't easy.

"You get tired sometimes, but then you think, ‘I'm going to have many things for me if I go over there and try'," the 18-year-old Diego said.

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It's that very attitude that makes Diego stand out, Vincent Memorial academic counselor and teacher Dennis Jacobelli said.

"She's had some difficulties in her life," Jacobelli said.

"There's no bitterness, no whining," Jacobelli said of Diego. "She has a great amount of faith," he added.

"For a person that young to have that kind of faith, it's impressive and inspiring for older people," Jacobelli said.

Diego is quick to give credit to her family for supporting her education.

"It was a big sacrifice for my mom to get me into a Catholic high school," Diego said.

She's attended Catholic schools all her life, but high school was more expensive, Diego said.

Diego's mother, Yvonne Muñoz Morris, admits the financial sacrifice was hard, but today she has happier things to think about.

"I'm very proud," she says, her arm around Diego's shoulders.

While Diego's two older brothers attended schools in Mexicali, it was important to her mother she attend an American school.

"There's more opportunity for her here," Muñoz Morris said.

Diego's opportunities will take her to the University of San Diego, where she plans to study international relations "because I really want to work with Mexico and the U.S. and now that the relations are very good I hope to get into that," Diego explained.

As a young niece pressed against Diego's leg and clung to her hand, Diego smiled again.

"I just want to thank everybody," she said.

During the graduation ceremony, Thomas Beecher, director of schools for the diocese of San Diego, urged students to strive for "an understanding of who we are and why we're here."

"Don't ever let that diminish," he said.

While every school aims for excellence, Beecher said Catholic schools differ in one major way from public schools.

"The reason we are here is to nurture you in your faith," Beecher said.

Beecher told students the lives they live should be testaments to the sacrifices made by their parents and teachers.

In his speech, co-salutatorian Adrian Araguas compared the ups and downs of high school to a roller coaster.

"Today marks the day we step out into the world and leave our mark on society," Adrian said.

"We are no longer the future, but the present," he said.

Staff Writer Kelly Grant can be reached at 337-3441.

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