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Orem • A daughter of Mexican immigrants is on her way to becoming her family's first college student after graduating high school in Orem while also juggling caregiver duties for her younger siblings.

It is not uncommon for Vanessa Ayala to put her family first, the Daily Herald ( ) reported. Throughout high school, the 18-year-old said she has constantly turned down invitations to hang out with friends or school events to take care of her younger siblings, ages 9 and 6 months, while her parents are away at work. She said she has had to take her younger brother with her to class, clubs and work on several occasions.

Her school's administration understood her situation and allowed the boy to read books while Ayala paid attention in class.

Even though taking care for her siblings can be frustrating at times, Ayala said wants to enjoy every moment she has with them. "Be patient, because you just have to make their childhood a lot better than the one you had," she said.

Along with her fierce commitment to her family, Ayala worked hard in school and graduated from Timpanogos High School last week. Although she was an AP student, Ayala said did not always excel in school.

Ayala was born in the United States, but English was not her first language. While she struggled to learn English at school, Ayala said her mother constantly pushed her to read books after school out loud. Ayala finally got a firm grasp of the language in fourth grade.

After graduating from high school, Ayala plans to attend Utah Valley University and hopes to one day become a surgeon. Ayala became interested in the field after working as an intern at Timpanogos Regional Hospital. As a bilingual person, she hopes to help Spanish-speaking patients.

"I saw there were a lot of Hispanics that were in a great deal of pain and couldn't explain it because no one spoke it," Ayala said.

She plans to continue helping her family while she is a college student.


Information from: The Daily Herald,