Cuesta College student athlete dies

Daniel Burg
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.

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I am a sixty something sometimes writer, vagabonder (read long-term traveler not vagrant,) designer and cook. I have been married to the same gorgeous woman for 30+ years and have four delightful and beautiful children. I am a property manager by profession, a cook by passion, a graphic designer when need be and an explorer of cultures by primordial predisposition. I think that all education is self-education. I make a conscious effort to avoid engaging with querulous persons, cantankerous, carping, curmudgeons and predictable, penny pinching Prima Donnas. I am fit yet not fanatical, light hearted yet neither fickle or unpredictable, with a modicum of charm tempered by a deferential humanity. I am equally at ease in an English parlor or a two-man tent on the side of Mount Kilimanjaro. I cook like a trained chef, dresses a table like a seasoned events planner and can make anywhere seem like home. I am tortured with the passions of Jacob yet think with the clarity of a Buddhist Monk and have on occasion dreamt of being the poster child for Carpe Diem. I also believe that “what if” is the way that all great adventures begin and should never be wasted to lament an opportunity not taken.

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