I am the first person in my family to graduate from high school and go to college. Growing up in the Rio Grand Valley of Texas the majority of my life; my family lived below the poverty line for a substantial part of my childhood.
The day I got accepted into Brown University was one of the happiest days of my life. The happiness only multiplied as I discovered that I was also accepted into Brown’s Program for Liberal Medical Education (PLME) – a selective and prestigious program that guarantees its members acceptance into Alpert Medical School along with the opportunity to explore a liberal education. I have always had an invested interest in the social health of the Rio Grand Valley, as it is an area notorious for diabetes and obesity, so being accepted into a medical program such as PLME only fortified my determination to become a physician and return home.
My mother in particular was glowing with pride at the news of my acceptance. She grew up in the rural town of San Fernando, Mexico and was the youngest of twelve children. My grandparents raised her with the belief that women only needed to know how to read, any more education than that was simply a waste. As a consequence, my mother was only allowed to complete elementary school before my grandparents decided her efforts were better spent working on their farm. I will never forget the sadness in my mother’s voice when she told me how she would have given anything to finish school. In comparison, the challenges I faced to strive for a higher education were subtle but piercing.
My responsibility to my family often interfered with my extracurricular and volunteer activities. For a while, I thought I would not be able to get into a good school because of how much time I spent at home catering to the great needs of my family. My mother was given custody of my two infant nieces after my older sister was deemed unsuitable to take care of them, caring for my nieces proved to be too much work for my mom. She worked full time and couldn’t afford to place them in daycare. I often took up the mantle of caretaker as soon as I got out of school. I had to balance the time spent with my nieces with completing my schoolwork, but because of my determination and perseverance, I accomplished both tasks. Now, not only am I an important figure in my niece’s lives but I was also able to get accepted into a wonderful university.
The financial benefit that my family has received from Southwest and the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) is beyond description. The cost of attending a university such as Brown (particularly as someone coming from a low income family) makes it difficult to keep up at times. Although I receive a generous amount of financial aid and work full time as a researcher during the summer, the costs quickly add up. The financial burden for my mother, who is the only source of income for my family of seven, has become tremendously lighter due to this travel scholarship.
In the past, I always felt guilty when funds that could go to family expenses such as gas, groceries, medicine, and general emergencies had to be used for pricey flights to college. The delight of being able to travel home without breaking bank is a great comfort.
My mother would do anything to ensure that I can return home each summer and to my eternal gratitude, she has consistently been able to find funds for my return during precious holidays. My mother truly is an altruistic woman who I admire; she is resourceful in finding money, from selling her clothes to selling my first car, all in order to have me home. Because of the Lánzate/Take Off Education Travel Award program, my mother can finally have her well-deserved peace of mind.