A Bellaire High School graduate described by her friends as "passionate" and "strong" was among those injured when a car plowed into a crowd of counter-protestors at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, her mother said on a fundraising page.
Natalie Romero, 20, was one of at least 19 people hurt when a driver sped into a crowd in a pedestrian mall, according to this GoFundMe page. It shows Romero with a bloodied face and bandaged head.
At least one person, 32-year-old Heather Heyer of Virginia, died after the driver of a Dodge Challenger sped into the crowd.
Those who know Romero said they weren't at all surprised to hear the rising sophomore was out at the counter-protest.
"She's so strong, bold, and fierce," said fellow University of Virginia student Yaselly Sanchez, who served as Romero's mentor through a UVA peer mentoring program for Hispanic and Latinx students.
"I wasn't at all surprised that she was there defending her own beliefs and those who are unable to attend such events. She's been very active and is grounded in her beliefs. She becomes iconic to everyone she touches, and she's a true gem who's only just beginning to shine."
Alex Garcias, a rising junior, described Romero as "full of conviction" and the "most passionate girl I know."
Victoria Giron, another UVA student, praised her classmate as "very outspoken about issues affecting minority students."
As news of Romero's injury spread, Houstonians rallied around her, too.
"Natalie was there because of the person she is and to support the rights of everyone," Bellaire High Principal Michael McDonough wrote on Twitter. "Natalie has always had a strong spirit for being an active citizen. She was always a fervent rights advocate and her peers found her inspiring."
The GoFundMe campaign to cover medical costs, raised more than $6,000 in the first 12 hours.
"The EMERGE family in Houston is sending love, and praying for your speedy recovery," wrote one donor. "You inspire us."
Others called her a "rock star" and a "hero," praising her for taking a stand for her beliefs.
Romero balanced a college-prep workload while serving as a leader in the school's Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps. She was named Outstanding JROTC cadet for Houston ISD in May 2016.
She participated in HISD's EMERGE program, which helps low-income and minority students get accepted into Ivy League schools. She earned the Harlan Andrews Founding Principal Scholarship for leadership, character and commitment to excellence, McDonough said.