‘I’m in my peak’: UCF graduate says move from Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria changed her life

ORLANDO, Fla. — At 21 years old, Ashley Ortiz Rosario was a year away from graduating from the University of Puerto Rico’s Rio Piedras campus, but in September 2017, Hurricane Maria wreaked havoc in Puerto Rico.


Ortiz Rosario and her family left the island and moved in with loved ones who already called Central Florida home.

“When I came here, there was like this little voice in my head saying, ‘Actually, I think this is it,’” Ortiz Rosario said.

Within a few months, Ortiz Rosario’s mom and brothers went back to the island but she stayed.

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“It was our job to bring some ease and some hope to the Puerto Rican people,” said Isis Artze-Vega, with Valencia College. “Immediately, we offered in-state tuition to every student who was displaced.”

Ortiz Rosario enrolled and eventually graduated from Valencia College, then the University of Central Florida’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management.

When she graduated, she wrote a popular song lyric on her graduation cap, “Estoy en mi peak y voy a seguir en mi peak.”

“I’m in my peak, and I’m gonna continue to be in my peak. Because that’s, that’s how I feel,” she said.

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She was right. Shortly after graduation, Ortiz Rosario secured her dream job: talent acquisition at Walt Disney World.

It took sacrifice, struggle and strength, but she knew what others were telling her was true. Education was the pathway to her future.

“I believe in my core that education changes lives,” Artze-Vega said.

It changed Ortiz Rosario’s. She moved from her island, living away from her family.

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“That is the hardest/best decision I’ve ever made,” she said.

Central Florida is home now, but Ortiz Rosario is Boricua through and through.

“Being Puerto Rican is, is who I am. So it’s with me everywhere I go,” Ortiz Rosario said.

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