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Pilar Diaz Bombino and her mother. Courtesy of the LA Times.
Pilar Diaz Bombino and her mother. Photo: Francine Orr/The Los Angeles Times.

Cuban migrant becomes a citizen, graduates and is accepted into UCLA in one week

Pilar Díaz Bombino's story is an example of perseverance and family effort.

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For young Cuban Pilar Diaz Bombino, June has been an extraordinary month full of joy. On the June 8, she became a U.S. citizen and the next day, graduated from school and gave a speech to her class.

The 18-year-old emigrated from Cuba in 2006 with her mother and brother. Through a visa lottery, Pilar's mother was able to travel with her children to the United States in hopes of giving them a better future. 

They arrived in Florida, but settled in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles in 2014.

In an interview with Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez, Pilar recounted that although she was getting good grades, she wasn't thinking about college when she started high school. Her mother was the one who motivated her.

"She told me that it's very important to be focused and do it. So that I don't have to struggle in life like she did," the young woman shared.

Bombino maintained a near 4.0 GPA, even while working at Smart & Final and AutoZone to help support her household expenses. She even overcame while experiences of racism and discrimination that marked her as a teenager.

Despite the difficulties she went through, her mother always supported her and encouraged her to go further in her education. From then on, she dedicated herself to her studies, and allowed herself to dream of entering a university.

When the young Cuban woman learned that she had gotten into UCLA, one of her three dream universities, "I really had no words," she confessed to the Times.

"I was in shock."

She then dedicated herself to studying for the U.S. citizenship test, and passed without one wrong answer.

During her graduation speech the day after receiving her citizenship, Bombino shared being excited to announce that she is now a citizen, thanked her brother, teachers and friends, and praised her mother for teaching her to "stick it out even when it seems impossible to do so."

To her high school classmates she said that although the "last year was taken away from us... our power to change the world will forever be in our hands."

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