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Never lose sight of the prize

  |   Kathryn Kao   |   Permalink   |   Kudos

Diana Huizar is fully aware that life is like a game of cards. We can't change the hand we're dealt, but we can certainly even out the playing field.

With this mantra in mind, Huizar could focus on her dream of becoming a professor while working over 90 hours a week as a full-time worker and student.

The Los Angeles native is used to working around the clock to support her family and maintain her 3.9 GPA. In fact, she has successfully financed 100 percent of her college expenses.

"It's not like my parents had a ton of money," said Huizar, who will graduate this spring from the University of Georgia College of Education with a dual degree in French and French Education. "I paid everything off with just scholarships and by working."

Growing up, Huizar was constantly on the move with her family. After living in California, Indiana and Illinois, they eventually settled down on an 11-acre farm in Commerce, Ga. It was during this time that Huizar decided to attend UGA as a pre-vet major. However, her passion for French was impossible to ignore.

"I've always really loved languages, and I dabbled a lot in French and sometimes Russian," she said. "So when I got to college, I was like 'I can do what I want to do,' so that's why I took French."

Huizar discovered her love for teaching once she fully immersed herself in the Romance language. In the future, she wants to teach French at the college level and has already started to apply for graduate school. But before she commits to another six years at UGA, Huizar will spend seven months teaching English in France.

She has been accepted into the Teaching Assistant Program in France (TAPIF), which is a joint initiative of the French Ministry of Education and the Cultural Services of the French Embassy. The program's goal is to strengthen English introduction in French schools.

While she doesn't know which school she'll be teaching at, Huizar has specifically asked to be placed in a low-income community. She is passionate about supporting families in need and can sympathize with students that are struggling financially.

"Those are the students that I really want to help because they're the ones that need it the most," she said.

Her dedication to the community is also reflected in her involvement with Pencils of Promise, a non-profit organization that helps low-income communities by providing students with school supplies and tutors. Huizar is also the vice president of UGA's Zeta Zeta Chapter of Pi Delta Phi, the National French Honor Society. As an active member, she enjoys helping students learn French and planning trips to various exhibits and museums around Athens and Atlanta.

Huizar's most unforgettable experiences at UGA include student teaching at Clarke Central High School and studying abroad in France. While traveling, she fell in love with the country's culture and simplicity of life.

"It was like a new world," said Huizar. "You learn a completely new way of living and a new way of thinking, and I think that's why I love languages so much. It bridges the gap between different worlds."

During her four years at UGA, Huizar has been awarded eight different scholarships, including one from the College of Education. As a result, she could decrease her work hours at Osh Kosh B'Gosh and Bass & Company and focus on her education.

"I work full-time to support myself and help out my family," she said. "The scholarships not only took me out of debt, but they also helped me out with my expenses this year. I can never thank the school enough."

Since Huizar's father had to drop out of school to support his family, she will be a first-generation college student.

"I think that's why my parents have been super encouraging and super supportive with school," said Huizar. "It's because they didn't have that same chance."

© University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602