- Associated Press - Friday, May 16, 2014

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (AP) - Instead of one family, Manuela Cabal Carmona now has four.

First, there are the professors and faculty members at Indiana Tech who welcomed her with open arms.

Next, her soccer teammates who keep her smiling.

Third, her boyfriend’s family who made sure she never spent a holiday alone.

Fourth and most important is the family she left behind in Colombia when she came to Fort Wayne in 2010.

“My family in Colombia, they are still the best,” she told The Journal Gazette (http://bit.ly/1gaJ7hp ). “There’s nothing like my mom. She’s my one and only.”

On Saturday, all four families will celebrate as she graduates from Indiana Tech with a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering.

Cabal Carmona, 22, will be among nearly 700 Indiana Tech graduates who will walk across the stage Saturday at Memorial Coliseum.

It’s a moment they’ve long awaited and the first time her parents, Monica and Pedro, will be visiting their daughter in Fort Wayne together.

“I’m so excited to see them,” Cabal Carmona said. “I can hardly wait.”

Four years ago, Cabal Carmona wasn’t sure she was going to make it through her first semester of college.

After spending nearly 24 hours on a plane, she arrived in Fort Wayne, eager to start her classes but scared and sad to leave her family behind in Colombia.

“My family means everything to me,” she said. “The people on the plane with me probably think I’m being forced to leave the country, the way that I cry. Even now that I’ve done it a few times, I just bawl.”

Cabal Carmona was raised in Cali, whose nearly 3 million residents make it Colombia’s third-largest city.

She graduated from an American-run high school in Colombia with dual diplomas - one for the United States and the other for her home county.

Story Continues →