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From Colombia to Duke University, Corner Canyon Graduate Living Her Version of the American Dream

After growing up in Colombia until she was 10 and spending six years bouncing around the United States, Catalina Giraldo says she ended up in Draper, Utah, USA, by accident. Consider it serendipity.

Major life moves that led her to Corner Canyon High might’ve been from happenstance, but Giraldo’s hard work and drive are determining her future path. After impressive junior and senior years with the Chargers, her next big step will be a cross-country move this summer to Durham, N.C.

Giraldo will attend Duke University on a full-ride scholarship attained through the QuestBridge program. In college, she’ll work toward a law degree and continue to wrestle, a sport she picked up as a senior at CCHS.

Giraldo can’t believe how her life is turning out. As a kid, she never imagined moving to the States. As a young woman, she’s grateful how things have worked out, including her mom’s job opportunity that led their family to relocate from California.

It didn’t take long for Giraldo to embrace — and be embraced — in Utah and at Corner Canyon High.

“Oh, I love it here,” she said. “Part of it is the state. Part of it is the people. It just feels like home to me at this point.”

She’s appreciative of her counselor, Sandy Steele, encouraging teachers, friends, and her wrestling teammates. The Charger grapplers celebrated her successes and lifted her up after struggles as she placed third in region in her first year in girls wrestling.

“I was extremely surprised to see such a welcoming community, such great teachers, such great counselors,” she said. “They were just so ready to help and ready to integrate me and get me up to speed. I personally believe if it wasn’t for their help, I would not be where I am today. And it’s because of them that I feel completely prepared to go into college.”

May has been a busy month for Giraldo. She ambitiously took six AP courses her senior year and is in the throes of taking the final tests for Statistics, Biology, Government, Comparative Government, Psychology, and Literature.

“It’s definitely not like school just comes easy to me. That’s not the case for me,” she said. “I like to take a challenge and push past my boundaries when it comes to my academic achievements. I just decided that I was going to challenge myself through my curriculum this year.”

Giraldo didn’t speak English when her family moved to the U.S. from Colombia in 2016 while she was in elementary school. She quickly mastered her ESL courses. “And from there, I just kind of picked it up along the way.”

If she could give her younger self any advice, it would be to not be so harsh on herself. Everything doesn’t have to turn out perfectly.

“Like anything else in life, learning is like trial and error,” she said. “You have to be a little bit more forgiving of yourself and learn that obviously you can learn through your failures. Failing … it’s part of the process.”

Giraldo is grateful that she’s been given a chance to live her version of the American dream.

“If you come to the U.S. and you work your butt off and you really strive for those dreams that you want to achieve, anything is possible,” she said. “That is my experience.”

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Lucie Chamberlain

Alta View Elementary

If a movie about super teachers were ever made, Lucie Chamberlain would be a prime candidate for a leading role. Fortunately for her kindergarten students at Alta View Elementary, she already thrives in a supporting role for them. Parents thank her for being a “super teacher.” She is also described as an “amazing colleague.” Whether students need help in the classroom or from home while sick, Lucie goes above and beyond to help them learn, overcome fears, and feel important and cared for. Lucie is the reason a number of kids went from hating school to loving it, according to parents. The way she exudes patience, sweetness, positive energy, and love for her students with special needs melts is appreciated and admired. One parent noted: “Both my kids wish she could be their teacher forever.” Another added:  “She treats every student like their learning and their feelings are her priority.” Super teacher, indeed!

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