Cal's top student was once told she had a low IQ

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The parents of UC Berkeley's top student were once told that their daughter would never learn to read at the college level. (KGO)

This year's top student at UC Berkeley was once told she would never learn to read at college level. Thank goodness her parents, who worked to prove that piece of information wrong, were so right.

On Sunday, Rebecca Peters received the University Medal. The 23-year-old sat down with ABC7 News to talk about overcoming her challenges.

Peters will soon leave Berkeley to continue her studies at the University of Manchester and then Oxford in the United Kingdom.

Not too shabby for a young woman whose parents were told by their local school district their daughter, who was then in 4th grade, had a low IQ.

Peters says she only found out a few years ago.

"My parents were sort of laughing to themselves and I asked what's so funny and they said it's funny that someone who was told they would never read at the college level is now about to be admitted to the world's best public university," she said.

Peters says her parents never bought into that. In fact, they fought to get her into advanced classes. She has pursued everything in life with the same kind of intensity.

"The classes that I think I work hardest in, are the ones that I find myself intellectually engaged in and are courses and topics that normally would not come easily to me," Peters said.

She earned a 3.98 grade point average. But the University Medal is also given to students whose ideas benefit others.

"It's a human rights issue, it's very serious," she said.

Peters has made it her passion to work on water and sanitation projects in several countries

Most recently she worked closer to home to bring awareness to the nitrate contamination problem in Salinas' drinking water supply.

She also speaks openly about another issue -- her bout with depression.

"It's something you can live with, it's about managing it," she said. "It's about creating a community of support and acceptance,"

As a University Medal recipient, Peters received a $2,500 prize. She will donate it to the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, which works with poor families in places like Salinas Valley.
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educationUC Berkeleyu.s. & worldwaterBerkeleySalinas
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