Magaly Del Rio had to grow up faster than most of her peers. By age 11, she was already babysitting her two younger siblings for several hours a week, a byproduct of her family’s financial situation at the time. During her junior year at San Benito High School, Del Rio drove her neighbor, Iris, to San Francisco close to a dozen times so she could get chemotherapy for late-stage brain cancer.
“Even though she had cancer, she always had a bright smile on her face,” Del Rio said. “She was always happy and positive, smiling and strong.”
It’s at this point Del Rio started choking up, because her friend’s health took a turn for the worse on May 10.
“It started going downhill from there,” Del Rio said. “As the days went by, I tried to stay by her. One side of her body was paralyzed and I remember her telling me she didn’t want to get to the point where people changed her diapers. I ended up helping her mom change her diapers and shower her.”
Del Rio said Iris died on June 1, and she’ll remember all the long car rides and conversations they had over the years. For all of her life, Del Rio has shown empathy and sacrificed her time to do kind acts. For her family. For neighbors. For just about anyone she has come in contact with. But Del Rio realized in order to achieve her dreams, she would need to get far away from home.
Several months ago, Del Rio had a conversation with her mom, Yuridia Moreira, about the possibility of attending college at Niagara University in New York. During the heart of the pandemic, they both realized it would behoove Magaly to attend college far from home. Del Rio juggled distance learning and babysitting throughout the pandemic.
“My mom realized I was helping her a lot and knew I needed to move on in life,” Magaly said. “If I stayed close to home, I might come back and start working without completing my education.”
Instead, Del Rio plans on completing the nursing program at Niagara, which offers clinical experience starting in her sophomore year. Del Rio was a part of San Benito High’s Advanced Via Individual Determination (AVID) program, which is designed to help students with high academic potential prepare for entrance to universities.
“AVID helped me emotionally and academically throughout high school,” said Del Rio, who carried a 3.5 GPA. “The teachers were very supportive and were always there to help me out.”
Del Rio grew up in San Jose, and for a while it was just her and her mom living together in a single room. Del Rio’s biological father was out of the picture early, leaving Del Rio and her mom to make it on their own. Out of a tough situation, they grew closer, knowing all they had was each other—and it was enough.
“We’ve been through a lot together,” Del Rio said. “She tells me she’s always proud of me and understands I need my own time away. She wants me to go to a university and succeed academically, to better my economic situation. Throughout high school, I focused on helping my mom, but I feel now I need to move out and create my own future.”