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Cuesta College student athlete dies

A memorial dedicated to Estefania Cerna Arroyo located inside the Cuesta College Athletics Department office. Photo by Daniel Burg

Trigger warning: This story contains content regarding the untimely passing of a Cuesta College student.

Estefania Cerna Arroyo, 18, a student athlete at Cuesta College who played on the women’s water polo team, passed away on September 25.

The cause of death is pending an investigation by the Santa Barbara County Coroner’s office.

“It pains us deeply to inform you of the loss of one of our current water polo students, Estefania Cerna Arroyo,” said Elizabeth Coria, Interim Assistant Superintendent/Vice President of Student Success & Support Programs at Cuesta College, in an email statement. “Estefania, 18 years old passed away on Saturday September 25, 2021. Estefania began their educational journey at Cuesta College Fall 2021 majoring in Biology, with aspirations of attending Medical school to become a surgeon. Estefania is survived by her mother, father, step-father and siblings. 

“Our thoughts and deepest sympathy are with the family during this difficult time,” Coria’s email statement continued. “The loss of one of our students is an incredible grief, but no one has to bear this loss on their own. Our Student Health Services Team is available to provide access to mental health services.”

Lanni Hardin, a second-year member of the Cuesta Women’s Water Polo team, spoke fondly of her former teammate. 

“One of the most purely kind people I’ve ever met,” Hardin said.

The Cuesta Women’s Water Polo team hasn’t played since September 17, and no new updates have been posted on the team’s official website since October 8. The team is currently 4-4 but their schedule indicates that the remainder of the season is cancelled.

Rich Firman, Head Coach of the Cuesta Women’s Water Polo team, commented on the team’s loss, and overall difficulties they’ve recently faced.

“Everyone is shocked, I think the sentiment is, ‘How could this happen?’ We just don’t understand,” Firman said. “The team is really feeling the impact of Estefania’s death, in combination with all the stresses due to COVID it’s been a tough couple of years. I’m really seeing the impact on the players.”

Arroyo is survived by her mother, father, step-father and siblings. The family has established a GoFundMe page in her name to accrue funds for the memorial.

Marty Pacino contributed to this story.