At the age of 10, I didn’t know a single word of English. My family and I had just immigrated from Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico, and we did not own anything other than the clothes on our backs. We were living in a tiny garage. I had a dream that one day I would go to college.
Even though in high school I graduated at the top of my class, I couldn’t afford to pay for college, and I wasn’t eligible for federally funded loans or grants. I felt lost until some of my high school mentors stepped in and connected me with advisors at PSU who showed me how to apply for specific scholarship funding in higher education.
When looking at universities, cost is a priority but I also wanted to go to PSU because of the urban location. I wanted to study a performing art and it was important to me that I had access to seeing live music, to be surrounded by different cultures to gather inspiration, and PSU is one of only three schools in the west coast to offer a jazz vocal major. PSU also offers a Diversity Scholarship program for which I was selected to be a part of. I worked as an academic mentor for Housing & Residence Life for three years. In addition, I received financial and academic support from the Honors College which made it possible for me to make a college education a reality. I was also in the McNair Scholars program which gave me tools to succeed in college and beyond.
I am proud to be a Viking. Thanks to PSU, I have been given the opportunity to beat the odds and stand up at commencement and speak as a first generation, Mexican college graduate. I had great experiences as a student, such as singing at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall with the PSU Man Choir, kayaking the Willamette with fellow Honors students, and relaxing at the top of the Recreation Center in between classes with a view of the Portland skyline. At PSU I felt like I could embrace my roots. Through the different cultural events that occur I felt celebrated and these moments will be missed.
The advice I would give to students applying to colleges right now is to ensure the college offers what you want to study. Find scholarships that can help you pay for school. If college is done right, I believe college and college graduation should not be seen as a destination. But rather, we should graduate feeling eager to begin making the change we want to see in the world. And for me, I cannot wait to get started.