2013 Woman of Promise Stephanie Dioguardi

Stephanie Dioguardi:
From Peru to China, and Beyond

There have been two constants in 20-year-old Stephanie Dioguardi’s young life: her family’s support and her determination to succeed.

Stephanie grew up in Arequipa Peru, but her parents had a dream for her college education from a very young age. They wanted Stephanie to attend college in the U.S. where they knew she would have the opportunity for a better education. Stephanie accepted that challenge and is now a Santa Fe College student majoring in Business Administration, preparing to transfer to the University of Florida.

“I finished high school in Peru at 16 and came to the United States when I was 17,” Stephanie said. “My mom came with me, of course, and we had to move everything here on a boat.”

While Stephanie spoke a bit of English, having learned the language at school in Peru, she still needed to take two semesters of prep reading and writing at SF to ready herself for more advanced classes. Now she tutors other students in accounting, economics and Spanish.

In addition to her tutoring work at Santa Fe, Stephanie has an abiding interest in helping fellow students in any way she can.

Says Admissions Coordinator Gayle Jones, who nominated Stephanie, “Stephanie is actively involved in the community and has a genuine concern for humanity and her fellow students that is evident in virtually every project she undertakes.”

Stephanie has been extensively involved in campus activities, setting a good example for every student she meets. Stephanie participated in the Model United Nations Team, is a member of Phi Theta Kappa and served as a Student Ambassador.

“I want to give back because Santa Fe has given me so much,” Stephanie said. “I’ve had so many opportunities here and the Student Ambassadors program has opened many doors for me.”

Stephanie’s involvement with the Student Ambassadors led her to head the service committee, participating in they cystic fibrosis walk in Starke last June, helping raise money to further research and treatment of the disease. Stephanie also helps Venezuelan students at SF ensure funding for college by writing CADIVI letters of verification to their home country, something required by the Venezuelan government to allow international students access to their money for college in the U.S.

Recently Stephanie was the recipient of a Study Abroad scholarship, allowing her to spend two weeks studying in China.

“The trip to China almost made me feel like I was back at home in Peru,” Stephanie said. “I had not been back recently, and missed my home. It surprised me how similar the culture in China is to Peru. Of course it’s an entirely different language, different people, but it so much more low-key than the U.S. – more natural. I felt like I was at home.”

One of the things Stephanie enjoyed the most was the food, and she was not afraid to try anything and everything. She really wanted to experience it all, even eating scorpions (which she says are actually quite delicious).

“I just wanted to experience the entire culture in every way. The food, the people, walking everywhere. We even took a 12-mile bike ride along the top of the Great Wall of China,” Stephanie said.

Back on campus and U.S. soil, Stephanie recounted her experience in China to other SF students, faculty and staff though a public speaking engagement, and participated in a marketing program for Study Abroad to help get the word out to other students about SF’s international initiative.

“Through my work in the community and on campus I want to show other students that whatever you want, you can achieve it,” Stephanie said. “My travels to the U.S. and China, and working my way through Santa Fe have shown me that it can be hard to adapt, but if you have a goal and don’t let the barriers get in your way. You can achieve whatever you want.”

Wherever life takes Stephanie from here, one thing is certain – with an attitude like that, nothing will stand in the way of her dreams.