McFarland is a small, rural community in California’s Central Valley. It is surrounded by agricultural fields where many of McFarland’s residents labor picking grapes, blueberries, oranges and onions among other crops. ESPN described it as “dirt poor” in a documentary about the city’s well-known cross country program featured in the recent Disney movie, “McFarland, USA.” Gang signs decorate wooden fences and a prison greets visitors from near and far by standing firmly next to Highway 99. And as you may have guessed, there are no stop lights.
I interpret the lack of stop lights as a symbol for the possibilities that exist for our youth. Our students are surmounting obstacles, breaking down barriers and demonstrating that there are no limits to what can be accomplished with passion, hard work and courage. More than winning cross country championships, our scholars are earning college degrees and breaking the cycle of poverty. This is not easy to do as most students are first-generation college students. Many immigrate to the United States, learn English as a second language and then take on the role as translators for parents or other family members. Like their parents, many students work in the fields to help support their family. They work on weekends, after-school and during summer break earning minimum wage-- if not less.
I grew up in McFarland, and I know these hardships first-hand. Now, as an alumna of Brown University, I would like to give back to my community and help create more opportunities like the one I had to be the first in my family to graduate from high school and college.
The No Stop Lights Scholarship will be awarded to college-bound McFarland High School seniors with an exceptional record of grit and determination. With a deep gratitude for the opportunities afforded to me, I strive to raise $5,000 or more by September 10, 2015 in recognition of those students who continue defying the odds. I invite you to join me in distinguishing deserving scholars interested in pursuing a college education and celebrating the next generation of leaders!
“Education is the engine of personal development. It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that the son of a mine worker can become the head of the mine, that a child of farm workers can become president of a great nation. It is what we make out of what we have, not what we are given, that separates one person from another.” Nelson Mandela