Beatriz Garnica was independent growing up because she had to be.

Her mom has suffered from debilitating illnesses for years and rarely was able to attend Garnica’s childhood performances or walk with her to and from school.

“It was always upsetting to me to see everyone hug their parents, but my mom was never there,” Garnica said.

Garnica, now 18, has cared for her mother since the eighth grade. She often manages her medication, drives her to appointments, wakes her up in the mornings or walks her to and from bed.

Despite having spent so much time caring for her mom, Garnica hasn’t put her own life on hold. She is set to graduate from Delavan-Darien High School on Thursday, June 6, with about 197 other students.

She is a captain of the high school soccer team, and her principal calls her the “heartbeat” of the school. She has been accepted to George Williams College of Aurora University in Williams Bay to study nursing.

“She has every attribute that I want from a Comet,” Principal Jim Karedes said of Garnica.

Garnica is the youngest of six children—four girls and two boys—and was raised in Delavan. She is the daughter of immigrants from León, Guanajuato, Mexico.

Her father has worked in factories for Garnica’s entire life, and her mom has bounced from one medical appointment to the next for years.

Garnica said her mother’s health worsened as she grew up. Her mother suffers from diabetes and lingering complications from three serious car accidents and a heart attack.

How does Garnica feel about it all?

“My mom’s probably one of the main reasons why I am who I am,” she said. “She’s both the sweetest but strongest person I’ve ever met. …I always strive to be just like her.”

Garnica’s relationship with her mother has inspired her to become a nurse.

She has noticed how people treat her mother. Some hospital employees have acted like her mother is worthless, Garnica said, and others have been rough with her.

“You can tell the difference between those who love their job and those who don’t,” she said.

Garnica said she wants to make a difference in the medical field. Her experience with her mom has set the standard for what kind of nurse she wants to be. And after years of caring for her mom, Garnica already has a caregiving background.

Karedes describes Garnica as bubbly. She knows and respects everyone and calls them by name, he said.

Garnica admits that she is always smiling and trying to brighten everyone’s day. She said she will miss doing that after graduation.

“Every day is not a good day. But there’s good in every day,” she said. “If you focus on the negative, that’s all it will be.”