Amidst political strife in his Nicaraguan home, Marco Antonio Urbina moved his family to the United States, dreaming of a better life.
His daughter, Maria, still takes that dream very seriously.
She was 2 when she fled the war-torn country with her father; mother, Mercedes; and older brother, Marco.
Now 17, Urbina is ending her reign as student body president at Carson High School and planning for her future.
"If everything goes perfectly, I want to go to George Washington University and major in political science. Then I'll go on to law school and become an attorney to help people. After that, I want to come back to be near my family and run for state Senate then the U.S. Senate," she explained.
"But that's just my rough idea. Oh, in between college and law school, I want to go into the Peace Corps," she added.
But Urbina's ambition can sometimes conflict with tradition. In her culture, it is more common for a young woman to live with her parents until she finds the man she wants to marry.
Urbina said she respects the traditions, but also sees an obligation to take advantage of the opportunities her parents worked so hard to make available to her.
One of her proudest moments remains the time in middle school when she won the American Legion Award. Her counselor, Carol McQuirk, read the letter Urbina's father had written in Spanish about why his daughter was deserving of the award.
"To this day, I still remember looking up to my dad, and he was crying," Urbina recalled. "It was just so amazing."
That same year, on a trip to the high school, Urbina saw photographs of the student body officers hanging in the hallway of the main entrance.
"I swear to gosh I walked by them and went, 'I want to be up on that wall someday.'"
She started off as president of the freshman class and went on to serve as president of each class until she was elected president of the entire student body.
Her taste for politics started early when she ran for president of her fifth-grade class. Although her competitors spent considerable amounts of money on buttons and other trinkets to promote their campaigns, Urbina couldn't afford it.
But she still won.
"I was so excited," she said. "It was my little 'Jenny from the Block' story."
When she returns to school after winter break, it will be the first time in years Urbina hasn't been running the show.
"I still have a lot of responsibility," she said. "You don't just drop everything."
It will also be her duty to mentor incoming student body president Jeremiah Schenzel.
And it will free up her time to pursue scholarships and college applications.
As Urbina prepares to move ahead, she can't help but feel nostalgic for the life she will leave behind.
"I've met so many wonderful people here," she said, her eyes welling with tears. "Leaving Carson City is going to be so hard. I love these people."
Contact Teri Vance at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 881-1272.