Maria Estrada, Student at UCLA
It was that time of the month. 'Bean burritos again?' my siblings whined. Around the 20th of every month the stock in our pantry dwindles to only beans, bread, and water. After dinner, my father always asked me, 'How was your day at school?' No matter how my day has been, I always respond to him enthusiastically so that he knows that his sacrifice is worth it. He came alone to the United States as a young boy with nothing. However, his most important priority is for me to get an education so that I may become an independent woman who will thrive academically, be successful in my career, and give back to my community. My father's dream has become my own. My father works hard every day. Despite his efforts, the money runs out every month. And it seems that most of the funds go to the food staple of choice: beans. Over the years, and with some constructive prodding from my siblings, my mother has created a hundred different ways to make beans. After helping her put dinner on the table daily, I eventually learned her secrets and even taught her some of my own. It started with a small cilantro plant. Then it was a sprinkle of chili powder. I started to play with flavors and textures. If I pureed the beans instead of keeping them whole, it was completely different. Beans are for dinner. But no one whines anymore. As I began to apply to colleges, I have noticed that the idea of making something out of nothing also applies to my educational background. Neither of my parents went to college, making it difficult for me to know how to start the process. In my hometown of Inglewood, few rigorous courses are offered at school and college resources are scarce. Also, my school did not offer opportunities to pursue my other interests. So I joined a church choir and taught the accordion. I even started the Community Service Club at my school. I applied to and joined two non-profit organizations--CO-OP Upward Bound and Minds Matter--that would support my path to college. My friends told me, 'You must be crazy! Who wants to go to extra school every Saturday?' But I knew that my friends were missing out on the actual 'fun.' In addition to helping prepare me for college, these programs gave me the opportunity to attend summer programs at CSU Channel Islands, Smith, and Georgetown at no cost. I worked alongside doctors, researchers, professors, and students to study human science. It was always challenging and I had to be resourceful to succeed. I worked in study groups, and spent as much time as possible studying in the library, working in labs, and attending professors' office hours. Every now and then, I reflect upon my past and try to envision my future. In seven months I will be the first female high school graduate in my family. Soon, I will be the first female college graduate. I received a lot of support for my education. As a result, I want to help others. After college I hope to get involved in the medical field. In about five months, I will be a student at UCLA and intend to major in biology. After college, I hope to attend medical school and become a pediatrician. In order to give back to low income communities like my own, I plan to travel across countries in Latin America and Africa to provide educational and health assistance to children. My experiences have made me the confident, disciplined, and grateful person I am today. In my pursuit of higher education, community involvement, and more flavor in my home cooked meals, I will continue to create something out of nothing. It would be an honor to be awarded a scholarship. The scholarship money would cover my college expenses on books, and other educational necessities that would lessen the burden on my father’s monthly bills.