CHANCE Meets Preparation for honors Grad

Posted on April 19, 2023

Young woman in a dress with a medal around her neck poses in front of Alumni House.

Since her freshman year, Diana Moreno has been a UNC Greensboro (UNCG) commencement marshall, but this year, she’ll walk across the stage for her own graduation. It’s a milestone she doesn’t take lightly as she considers how far she’s come, thanks to the encouragement of key faculty members at UNCG. But for this confident, high-achieving Spartan, the journey is far from over.

Big Dreams from Humble Beginnings

Moreno can hardly remember a time when she didn’t feel drawn to the medical profession: “I know it sounds very cliché to say it’s a calling, but I think the moment I picked up a toy stethoscope, I felt like it was something I could do for the rest of my life and be happy.” 

It seemed like an impossible dream for Moreno, who is a first-generation U.S. citizen and college student. Her parents moved to New York from Honduras after devastating hurricanes hit Central America. They moved to Greensboro for a lower cost of living just before Diana was born. 

With three older siblings who chose to join the workforce rather than going to college, there was no roadmap for Moreno to become a doctor. Hungry for knowledge, she attended the Academy at Smith. There she could finish high school while taking college courses, which allowed her to become a certified nurse assistant (CNA) when she was 17. 

Her high grades in advanced courses assured Moreno that she could succeed in college, but she was determined to find a school where she felt comfortable to speak her mind and ask for help.

“¡Mija, tú puedes!”

The summer after her sophomore year of high school, she attended the very first CHANCE camp on UNCG’s campus. The program is designed to give first-generation Latinx students a taste of the college experience by taking mock classes taught by faculty, staying in dorms, considering majors, and learning about student life. 

A woman hugs a young woman in a graduation gown in front of the Admissions Building.
Moreno met Margarita Kerkado when she registered for the very first CHANCE camp at UNCG.

CHANCE is where Moreno first met Margarita Kerkado who works in the admissions office to recruit and assist students from Latin communities. 

“I felt like I had strong potential, but sometimes we don’t realize how strong it can be until we get confirmation from someone else,” says Moreno. “Margarita told me ‘mija, tú puedes!’, which means, ‘you can do it, girl!’ and I believed her.”

Kerkado is the primary organizer of the CHANCE program, which began in 2017 when Moreno was a camper. 

“I remember her face at check-in time. She was a little nervous, but at the same time very excited and eager to learn,” Kerkado recalls.“She came back the summer after her junior year and I helped her understand the admission process.”  

More than a Number

Attending CHANCE for two summers gave Moreno access to scholarship and financial aid information early and sparked her excitement for college life at UNCG. Although she applied to many universities, most of which had strong medical school tracks, she knew UNCG was the right place for her.

Smiling young woman sits in an academic office with a professor who gestures to a notebook.
Dr. Lepri meets with Diana regarding biology class study notes.

“I was offered scholarships at schools like Wake Forest, Hofstra, and Adelphi University in New York,” Moreno explained. “But I decided that it was important for me to build a strong foundation at a college where I wasn’t just a number. At UNCG, I was a student with a face.”

She entered UNCG’s Lloyd International Honors College and began taking biology courses to stay on track with her med school goals.

“Diana immediately struck me as an earnest, but worried, student,” says Dr. John Lepri, the professor of her honors biology class. “She quickly learned that office hours are a golden opportunity to talk to the person who delivers the lectures, and perhaps more importantly, the person who creates the exams. This nervous and anxious beginning, to her credit, launched her into a long succession of outstanding academic achievement.”

Emerging a Leader

In addition to her biology major, Moreno has a double minor in chemistry and Spanish. When her studies became more difficult and her involvement on campus expanded, Kerkado was always there to remind Moreno: “never let anyone tell you that you’re not going to make it.”

“Diana is highly intelligent and ambitious,” Kerkado brags. “I have always been impressed by the way she balances challenging courses while staying active in our community and school.”

In fact, Moreno maintains a 3.9 GPA while working and holding campus leadership roles. She mentors underclassmen in the Lloyd International Honors College, is a chancellor’s ambassador, and studied abroad last summer, when she spent five weeks in Spain working towards her Spanish minor.  

“Diana always begins her interactions with a warm smile and sincere interest,” says Lepri. “She is a loved and respected member in all of her communities.”

Balancing Work and School

Moreno’s engaging and comforting personality also shines in the nursing jobs she’s worked throughout her college years. She worked at an assisted living facility and an internal medicine practice, and is now serving as a nurse tech in the surgical department at Moses Cone Hospital. 

Woman in scrubs stands in front of Moses Cone Hospital.
Moreno will use her academic skills and practical experience to pursue her dreams of med school.

For the past six months, Moreno has been shadowing Dr. Ugonna Anyanwu, the head of the OB-GYN department at Moses Cone, as she considers a specialty in women’s health.

“With Dr. Anyanwu, I’ve seen the most incredible things,” Moreno marvels. “I saw life come to life. This has been my motto since I decided to pursue an OB-GYN specialty, and I actually saw it happen.”

In the year ahead, Moreno will study for the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) and complete med school applications. Her dream is to attend Wake Forest University for medical school and Dr. Anyanwu is confident that she’ll achieve her dream.

“Diana’s work ethic and experience uniquely positions her to be an exceptional physician,” Anyanwu says. “I look forward to having her as a colleague in the near future; and I do hope she brings all her assets to women’s health, but she will excel in any field of medicine she chooses.” 


Woman in graduation gown stands on steps of Jackson Library and throws her cap in the air.

A strong faith keeps Moreno from being afraid to “knock on doors”. She trusts that when one door closes, she can learn from her failures until another opens. 

Moreno recalls her disappointment when she wasn’t included among the ten junior marshalls at her competitive high school’s graduation ceremony, because she was 11th in her class. Just two years later, she was asked to be a university marshall at UNCG at the end of her freshman year, which is almost unheard of.  

“God had bigger plans for me,” she explains. “I became a marshall in college, instead of high school where it wouldn’t be as meaningful.”

When Moreno added the marshall accolade to her resume, the honor opened more doors for her. She met Chancellor Gilliam and his staff, which led to the opportunity to serve as a chancellor’s ambassador. 

Woman smiles with pride as she hugs a young woman in commencement gown with honors cords.
Kerkado and Moreno promise to keep in touch.

“I have loved watching ‘mija’ thrive at UNCG,” says Moreno’s mentor, Kerkado. “I believe in Diana’s resilience, in the exceptional support she has received from her family, and in the fact that she has always taken advantage of the resources and opportunities that UNCG provides.”

Before commencement, Diana Moreno hopes that she’ll be able to express her gratitude for all the special people who have encouraged her at UNCG. Although she will graduate from a university that is only ten minutes from her home, she swears that in this case distance means nothing.

“You don’t have to go far to make it far along. It’s been a beautiful process. You learn about yourself, about others, about networking. It’s so incredible how much I have gained through these four years.”

Story by Becky Deakins, University Communications.
Photography by Sean Norona, University Communications.

Smiling young woman sits in an academic office with a professor who gestures to a notebook.

Got Big Dreams and a High-Achieving Work Ethic?


Share This