Yale welcomes Irvine Valley grad

Diego Victoria, who went from Irvine Valley College to Yale, has always wanted to impact his community.

When Diego Victoria was 7, he began watching true-crime dramas with his dad, including “Dateline” and “48 Hours.” His father didn’t speak English, so Victoria translated everything into Spanish. Processing the law in two languages ingrained it in his mind.

“I loved watching attorneys in the courtroom,” Victoria says. “They had an impact on their communities. I told myself, ‘I want to do that.’”

But he wasn’t a disciplined student. His freshman year at Beckman High, Victoria failed algebra I. A summer school course made him realize that his unfocused approach was an injustice to himself and his parents. He began applying himself, taking six AP courses and three honors classes. It wasn’t enough; the traditional four-year college was now out of reach.

“My friends left for school. That was tough because it felt like everyone moved on without me,” he says. “But, in that moment, I knew what I wanted.”

Making a plan

Victoria spent the next summer working hard and researching his options. He created a plan, knowing which courses to take and how to navigate the transfer process from community college into university. “I hit the ground running and didn’t look back,” he says.

Victoria entered Irvine Valley College with focus and determination, taking advantage of the many opportunities offered. He became student body president and a two-time debate national champion. “I never wanted to fail again,” he says. “I never wanted to tell my parents, ‘I’m sorry I couldn’t honor your sacrifices.’ ”

Success story

This year, Victoria applied to some of the nation’s best schools. He received acceptances to Yale, UC Berkeley, UCLA, USC, UC Irvine, UC San Diego, Amherst and Rice, most with scholarships. He will start at Yale University this fall with plans for law school thereafter.

Alongside his academic awards, Victoria also worked as an intern for local and state politicians and for the Republican Party of Orange County. This summer, he’s interning in Washington, D.C.

His advice to students? “Take that bet on yourself, even when no one else does. It’s the only thing that will pay off.”