Watching Daniela Rodriguez stroll across the Glynn Academy campus one would think she's been a Georgia resident forever. But that's not the case.
In fact, she's not even a native of the United States.
The 18-year-old moved from Chipas, Mexico, just five years ago. But as she waves to friends, taking a seat on a sun-kissed bench in the school's courtyard, it's clear that she's in her element.
Of course, it wasn't always so easy for Rodriguez.
She says there were a variety of differences between Mexico and her new home in the United States.
"I'm from a city so it was much smaller," she said. "That was one difference. But the people here have always been very nice."
When she arrived, she knew little to no English and was understandably apprehensive about her new surroundings.
"It was hard at first. I could count to 10 but that was about all," she said. "But it was frustrating at first, not being able to understand English."
Rodriguez, however, wasn't content to just sit idly by. She took charge of her education.
"I knew I had to learn English. I kept up with my work, did homework and actually watched a lot of TV in English, which helped," she said. "I tested out of the (English as a second language) class in a year and a half."
She didn't just master English quickly. Rodriguez has excelled in all of her classes, preparing to graduate with a near perfect grade point average. She's involved in numerous clubs such as Beta Club, Chess Club and Psychology Club.
"I figured that it would be good to get involved with clubs at school. It would help me make more friends," Rodriguez said. "And I knew that it would be good for me ... to get into college."
She is even adding a new language to her repertoire.
"I've been taking Japanese, and I really enjoy it," she said.
Helping others learn languages is a passion for Rodriguez. She has been volunteering, working with Spanish-speaking adults and helping them learn English.
"I know how frustrating it can be (to) not know English. And I just want other (Spanish speakers) to know that they can do it. If I can learn (English), anyone can," Rodriguez said.
Lending a hand to others is just part of her nature. And it's something that she plans to continue in the future.
When she attends college in the fall, she will either go to Agnes Scott in Atlanta or to Armstrong Atlantic State University in Savannah.
At either campus, she hopes to pursue a degree in psychology.
"I think that it is because I like helping people," she said.
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