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June was a big month for Los Angeles teen Pilar Diaz Bombino — she became a U.S. citizen on the 8th, and the next day delivered a celebratory commencement address honoring the Class of 2021.
Bombino, 18, immigrated to the United States from Cuba in 2006 with her mom, Nancy, and brother Daniel. They first moved to Florida, but settled in L.A.’s Watts neighborhood in 2014, where Nancy became a certified nurse assistant. Bombino told the Los Angeles Times that while she got good grades, she wasn’t thinking about college when she started high school — but her mom got her motivated. “She told me it’s very important to stay focused and do it,” she said. “So I don’t have to struggle in life the way she did.”
Bombino studied hard, kept focused, and maintained a GPA of nearly 4.0, all while working at Smart & Final and AutoZone. When Bombino found out she got into UCLA, one of her three dream schools, “I really didn’t have any words,” she told the Times. “I was just in shock.” She turned her attention to studying for her U.S. citizenship test, and ended up acing it, getting every question right.
During her graduation speech the next day, Bombino said she was “thrilled” to announce she is now a citizen, and after thanking her brother, teachers, and friends, she praised her mom for showing her how “to hold on even when it seems impossible to do so.” To her classmates at Jordan High School, Bombino said while their “senior year was stripped from us … our power to change the world will forever be in our hands.”