DALLAS -- A Woodrow Wilson High School student wept as she hit refresh on her computer for the umpteenth time during a study session at a Dallas-area Starbucks on Tuesday. The message she finally received marked the next chapter in her growing American dream.
"I'm so proud of you little duckling," a teacher said to Manuela Arroyave in the main high school hallway at the end of Wednesday classes.
"I'm so proud of you sweetheart. Good job," said another.
And after sitting down with the 17-year-old senior in a second-floor history class, WFAA got the full reason why.
"It was a great surprise. And wow, that's all I can say," Manuela laughed.
Because a friend was recording with a cell phone camera the moment Manuela learned she'd been awarded early acceptance to Harvard University.
"I started crying. I was so happy. It was amazing," she said.
Even more amazing when you consider Manuela came to the United States from her native Colombia when she was six years old. She didn't speak English.
Now she's a drum major for the Woodrow Wilson High School band, a member of the National Honor Society, succeeding in the rigors of the IB Program at Woodrow Wilson, on track to be the 2018 valedictorian, and hoping to major in biochemistry. She hopes to be a doctor someday.
"We're still in shock," laughed her mom, Maria Monsalve, who learned about the acceptance letter from a friend who'd seen the social media video.
It started circulating rapidly before Manuela had a chance to tell her parents in person. Both her mom and her stepdad are DISD kindergarten teachers. And they are beyond proud.
"Oh my gosh. We are just to the moon and back," Manuela's mom said.
"For some people, the American dream is the house and the dog and all that stuff," said Manuela's stepdad Ricardo Cardona. "For us, it's having the opportunity, being lucky enough to send this girl to Harvard. For us, it's kind of the American dream achieved."
Manuela is not the first from this Dallas public school to be accepted to Harvard. A Woodrow Wilson student also went to Harvard last year. Her counselor says she's very deserving of Harvard acceptance and an example of the opportunities available to hard-working students in DISD.
"She is going to be a very caring and compassionate doctor one day," said school counselor Sheri Hall. "She will make a big difference in a lot of people's lives."
"I'm beyond proud and happy to be able to represent Woodrow in this way," Manuela said.
There's still one hurdle, though: Financial aid. That decision will come later. But for now, this student with a 4.7 GPA looks to the pictures of past graduates that line the main hallway at school with the names and logos of the colleges they all would eventually attend, maybe her picture and Harvard will be next.
"It would just be, it would be a dream come true. It would be absolutely amazing," she said.
Amazing. But then everyone at Woodrow Wilson High School says so is she.
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