Puerto Rican ballet student arrives in San Francisco to continue her training

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Hurricane Maria has displaced thousands of Puerto Ricans. One of those is a 16-year-old ballet student. Unable to practice on the island, she took it upon herself to reach out to one of the world's best schools, the San Francisco Ballet.

Iris Rocio Davila is on her own in the Bay Area, far from her home in a town called Vega Alta in Puerto Rico. It was her love for ballet that forced her to leave her island and her parents.

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"When the first week when my mom left, I was like, I'm doing this alone, " said Rocio Davila who giggled at the thought of cooking for herself.

Iris had been training at two ballet schools in San Juan. But then last September, hurricane Maria changed everything for her and for millions of Puerto Ricans.

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"It was like square one, we had to start from zero," she explained.

With no way to advance her training, Iris decided to write a letter to the director of the San Francisco ballet school, Patrick Armand.

She had recently done a 4-week intensive program at the San Francisco ballet, the summer before. But would they now accept her at the school? Few get in.

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"Obviously I've been following on the news and I have some friends in Puerto Rico and I thought it was a horrible time for them and receiving that letter, I had to help, it was like a cry from the heart," said Armand.

And then right before Christmas, after weeks of waiting, Iris received word from the San Francisco Ballet school inviting her to join them.

"I was, 'Mom, I got in!' I started crying, my mom started crying."

She received a scholarship from the ballet. Her parents, a teacher, her entire community, even a Puerto Rican actress pitched in to help pay for her room and board.

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"I really want to continue doing this for as long as I can and just train for this and dance professionally," she said.

Iris wants people to know she's one of the lucky ones, able to leave an unbearable situation.

"This is still affecting many, many families, that this is not over. "

Like many on the island, she continues to carry herself with grace under pressure.

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