Peralta said she was always happiest in school: I tried to stay active in as many activities as possible so I wouldnt have to think about life at home.
In her sophomore year at Central High School, she developed a love of poetry inspired by her English teacher. We read a lot of Langston Hughes, she said, and our final grade was based on our participation in a poetry slam that my teacher organized.
She was also made captain of her high school debate team and won Best Debater of 2012, along with Top Speaker Award for 2012 by the Rhode Island Debate League. She was leader of the yearbook committee and senior class president, and she taught Latin dance at Gilbert Stuart for a few hours each week to earn money to feed the family.
Kiana immediately stood out for me, said Marianne Gianfrancesco, RICs associate director of the Early Enrollment Program, who came to Peraltas English class to talk about the program. Kiana came up to me after class and thanked me for visiting her school. I asked her if she was planning to further her education beyond high school, and she said, Oh, yes, Im going to college. Im going to be a social worker.
Gianfrancesco invited Peralta to Rhode Island College for a tour of the campus. She also recommended Peralta for RICs Preparatory Enrollment Program (PEP). PEP is offered to a select number of low-income, first-generation Rhode Island students in need of academic support. Right around the time Peralta was accepted into the program, her family was served another eviction notice. With PEP, I have full tuition for a year, a place to stay and food, she said.
She is also able to pursue her dream. A double major in social work and political science, she said, I want to become a school social worker in an urban area to help students like me. Most people who overcome major hurdles in their life met someone who helped them. I want to be that someone.
This involved freshman is a member of the Debate Team, she performs spoken word at RICs Open Mic Nights and was recently crowned Miss HUDO 2013 by the Hispanic United Development Organization.