Scholar Spotlights  

Jennifer- Latino U Scholar ’23 & Binghamton University ’27

Jennifer: Getting Ready to Study Abroad in the Netherlands!

April 2024

Meet Jennifer! She is Class of 2023 Latino U Scholar from Ossining High School and currently a Freshman at Binghamton University. Learn about how Jennifer made her dream of studying abroad a reality and what she looks forward to this upcoming fall semester.

Was studying abroad always a dream for you? 

Studying abroad has always been my dream ever since I was a child. I imagined myself traveling the world, meeting new people, visiting historic places, and learning about various cultures. Fortunately, my dream became a possibility when I received acceptances from all five study abroad programs I applied to. It still feels surreal at times, but I remind myself that hard work and dedication can help achieve anything. Now, I realize that my childhood dream of experiencing the rich traditions and cultures of the world has become my reality, and I am eager to pursue this amazing opportunity. 

What made you want to study abroad your sophomore year? 

I came to college with a determination to step out of my comfort zone, take risks, and embrace the unknown. I strongly believe in living in the present and was excited to start this journey early in my college life. Thankfully, I had the opportunity to complete many of my general education requirements during high school through college courses. This gave me the chance to study abroad without worrying too much about fulfilling remaining credits. 

Why Utrecht University, Netherlands? 

Choosing which study abroad program to pursue was challenging. However, the Utrecht University program in the Netherlands truly stands out from the rest.This school offers an incredible range of opportunities and features that make it the best university in the world. Its diversity, location, education, network, culture, and history are just a few of the many things that make it special. 

Not only will I receive an excellent education with valuable hands-on experience, but I will also be able to balance my academic life with exploration. Utrecht is situated between many different cities within the Netherlands and Europe, which means I will have the possibility to not only explore new cities but also different countries and learn about various cultures at once. 

What are you most looking forward to? 

I am excited to meet new people and explore different places, cuisines, and traditions. I aim to expand my knowledge of the world beyond my current understanding. I hope this experience will help me grow as an individual and feel at ease with unfamiliar situations, rather than being afraid of the unknown. I am looking forward to living this journey to the fullest, making endless connections and memories along the way.


Esteban- Latino U Scholar ’20 & Stanford University ’24

Esteban: Dream Internship Secured at Google!

February  2024
I am very excited for my software internship this summer at Google! Working for Google has been one of my dreams since I was in high school, mostly because of its amazing reputation for being a great environment for software engineers. As a first-gen Latino Student, I had very little experience in computer science compared to a lot of my peers. Because I felt behind, I was very motivated to catch up, so I worked really hard in and outside the classroom. The past few summers, I have worked in a research lab and interned twice for another tech company. However, Google was always in the back of my mind. This opportunity at Google means a lot to me because it validates all my hard work. Now, I have achieved most of the career goals that I wanted to achieve during college, and I no longer feel behind.

This summer I will be interning for the Android Auto team in San Jose. I will be getting major exposure to operating systems (OS), which is one of my biggest interests in the computer science field, and it is pretty rare to get OS work experience in the tech industry. I am very happy and excited for this opportunity and will work very hard to hopefully get a return offer for full-time after my last year in college!

Daniel – Latino U Scholar ’23 & RICE University ’27

Daniel: Internship Secured at Amazon!

February  2024
I remember vividly the rush of joy and excitement that swept over me after opening the acceptance letter, confirming my position as a Software Engineer Intern at Amazon; it was a reflection of years of dedication and hard work that granted me such an amazing opportunity. I am incredibly honored and excited to be given the opportunity to intern at Amazon, as this will be the stepping stone for my career as a Software Engineer. This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity will allow me to immerse myself in a work-life environment, allowing me to develop and gain valuable knowledge that will guide my career path. Despite my interest and engagement in software development being fairly new, I feel fully prepared and confident to take these steps.

What I am most excited about is collaborating with other interns to innovatively contribute to the goods and services Amazon has to offer. The concept of working alongside professionals, sharing ideas, and constructing ideas brings me the uttermost joy and anticipation. Being placed in such an environment will allow me to learn and contribute, helping my personal and professional growth.

I am immensely grateful for the support of my parents, friends, the LUCA team, and especially my older sister, for believing and supporting me. Their uplifting support pushed me forward to fulfill my aspirations. To those who find inspiration in my journey, remember that with perseverance, determination, and hard work, anything is possible. Let’s keep pushing our limits and exceeding our own expectations. Si Se Puede!

Kate – Latino U Scholar ’21 & University of Rochester ’25

Kate’s College Journey

January 2024
Meet Kate! She is a Class of 2021 Latino U Scholar from Alexander Hamilton High School and currently a Junior at the University of Rochester. From being re-elected as class president to locking a summer internship at JP Morgan, it’s safe to say that Kate is making her mark as a first-gen Latina.


What is your most memorable experience so far in college?
My favorite memory in college so far has been all the “surprise” birthday parties we do. Being away from my family was very hard for me in the beginning and I didn’t want other people to feel this way. During freshman year, I would throw surprise parties for my friends and we’ve all kept this tradition going through junior year as well. It’s really funny because now they’re not really surprise parties anymore. But the most important piece is that I’ve built a family at my University; most of us are first-gen students and we support each other through all the ups and downs.

How do you feel you’ve changed or grown as a person?
This semester I have truly learned how to manage all aspects of my life. I have also learned to prioritize myself and my well-being. During both my freshmen and sophomore year I always felt like I had something to prove (the imposter syndrome speaking), so I always did more to try to prove to others that I was just as good as them and also deserved to be at the University. After two years of University, I have realized that I am good enough and more importantly deserve to be here.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve overcome this semester?
This semester my biggest challenge to overcome was being away from my family. This summer I didn’t get to spend much time with them because I was doing an internship and working on the weekends. Once I got to college it was hard because I missed them a lot, especially my two younger brothers. I always feel a bit “selfish” when I leave my family and go to school because I know they need me. This has been something I’ve struggled with overcoming but I know that going through higher education and becoming a professional is what will help my family the most.

What are you looking forward to during the Spring semester?
Growing up, I always thought that going to Europe was just a dream but LUCA and my university have taught me that all dreams are possible. I’ll be studying abroad in Barcelona, Spain, and cannot wait! After finding out that I was accepted into the program I was a bit worried about financials so I applied to many scholarships and am happy to say that going abroad will not be a financial burden.



Amanda – Latino U Scholar ’21 & Villanova University ’25

Amanda’s Fall Semester Update

January 2024

I’d like to share two things. 

First, I attended a Hispanic Association Stem convention in Salt Lake City. Going to the conference was a very interesting experience because it was my first time traveling without my family and being in that area of the country. It was also not like any event I’ve ever been to before. Walking into the convention center and career fair was overwhelming. I had to take a moment to remember why I was there, what I wanted, and calm down so I could achieve it. Lines to speak to companies were super long. I met students from other universities throughout the day. After getting the first few interactions with recruiters out of the way, I felt more comfortable. It was a great feeling knowing that there were so many other talented Hispanic students and professionals looking for advancement in their careers. It was definitely an opportunity to learn about myself, the companies, and networking. If I’m able to attend next year I feel like I can better prepare and take advantage of more events within the convention. I’m extremely thankful for Villanova’s sponsorship because this wouldn’t be possible for me without the help. 

Second, is that I’m going to the Dominican Republic before the start of the spring semester for my Villanova Engineering Service Learning Project. My group and I made STEM activities for the children and adults in the community, which I then translated. We also looked into how we could help them with their deteriorating foundations and decided that they could add gutters to their roofs or use a product that you put in the cracks, which hardens when water is present. I’m excited to meet the members of the community and to make a difference in the place where my family is from.

Guadalupe – Latino U Scholar ’23 & Sacred Heart University ’27

Guadalupe’s Fall Mid-Semester Update

October 2023

Starting my first year has been astonishing. I knew college would present many opportunities, but I wasn’t expecting the quantity I have been given thus far. The transition from high school to college wasn’t difficult at all. Since I attend a fairly small university, it is easy to navigate around campus and always find a friendly face to talk with.

I moved in a week before the official move-in day because I am part of the Sacred Heart Band. Although the first night was rough and felt weird, I was able to adjust quickly the next morning. Since they kept us busy, it was a great distraction so that we wouldn’t feel homesick. It also prepared us to balance school life with social life and extracurriculars. For a whole week, I was practicing music, basic blocks, our halftime show performance for the football games, and exploring new connections. Although it sounds like a lot, it was honestly such a blast. In all honesty, I thought I was going to have trouble making friends, but everyone was and continues to be so welcoming. At that point, I felt as if I was in the right place.

Starting school the following week was amazing. I was excited to begin this new journey and see how I would change as a learner. I knew that college was a different ballpark, so everything I did in high school would have to change a tad bit. All my classes so far have been easy to understand and motivate me to get up and actually be proactive and productive. One of my favorite classes this semester has to be my First-Year Writing Seminar. I have never been a fan of reading and writing, but there is something about this class that actually makes me enjoy writing now. I feel that motivation to write my papers without dreading it. I felt as if in the last 7 weeks I have grown as a writer because I get compliments from my professor letting me know that I am one of her best writers. Hearing that just made me feel as if I accomplished something so big.

Besides all the academics, my social life has also changed. I met some of my closest friends in a matter of 3 days. I didn’t think I’d find connections so quickly and be with them 24/7. Whenever we have breaks and go home, we FaceTime each other because we don’t know how to be apart for less than an hour. Sacred Heart offers an involvement fair which features all the different clubs and organizations you can join. This is especially helpful for first-year students who want to get involved. I have joined a club known as La Hispanidad, where I’ve met a great community and have shared stories/goals.

As I’m halfway through my first semester, I can’t wait to see what the last 8 weeks of this semester have in store for me. Hopefully, by the end of this semester, I will have declared my major, rather than waiting until the end of my sophomore year because political science really does fascinate me.

Christian – Latino U Scholar ’22 & Rochester Institute of Technology ’26

Christian’s Spring Update

May 2023

Completing my first year of college has been an exhilarating experience, filled with ups and downs, challenges and triumphs. As I reflect upon this journey I just completed, I am filled with a sense of accomplishment and gratitude for the personal and professional growth I have achieved. 

The transition to a new environment and the exposure to a diverse community challenged my perspectives and expanded my understanding of the world. I have become more adaptable, resilient, and open-minded, embracing new ideas and valuing the importance of collaboration and teamwork. Moreover, I have developed a strong sense of self-discipline and perseverance, enabling me to overcome obstacles and make the most of every opportunity that comes my way. 

The biggest challenge I encountered this semester was balancing between academic demands and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. The transition from high school to college brought forth a higher level of academic rigor and independence, which initially overwhelmed me. However, I learned to manage my time effectively, prioritize tasks, and seek assistance when needed. By developing efficient study habits, utilizing campus resources, and seeking support from peers and professors, I successfully navigated through the challenges and achieved academic excellence. 

Looking ahead to the Fall 2023 semester, I am brimming with excitement and anticipation. The new academic year holds the promise of fresh challenges, opportunities, and intellectual growth. I have made my fall schedule, and I am very excited for the classes I am taking. Additionally, I am eager to participate in extracurricular activities, clubs, and organizations that align with my passions and allow me to contribute to the campus community.

College has indeed been a rewarding experience, and I am grateful for the growth and opportunities it has provided me. 

Katya – Latino U Scholar ’20 & Middlebury College ’24

Katya’s Summer Internship at JP Morgan Chase

August 2022

This summer, I was a Corporate and Investment Banking Intern at JP Morgan Chase. During this 6-week internship, I lived in New York City and worked from the Brooklyn office and their headquarters in Midtown Manhattan.

In my first three weeks, I learned a lot about the firm, investment banking, and corporate banking. I also met with senior leadership to discuss DEI initiatives and learned more about the company’s culture. It was great getting to know them on a personal level and talking to them about their own career journeys.

I worked on a business sprint project, where I collaborated with other interns across the country to help a Minority Depository Institution. In this project, we helped Liberty Bank come up with a new solution for their customer service feedback mechanisms. This project gave me great insight into the different ways that JP Morgan is supporting underrepresented communities. At the end of the project, my team presented our pitch to senior leadership at Liberty Bank and got amazing feedback from them!

In my last three weeks, I learned about the different lines of business. I looked at Risk Management, Payments, Global Corporate Banking, and Securities Services Track. We did two-day “deep dives” with each of the lines of business and learned how they worked, what kinds of jobs they do, and how they aided the bank. During the last week of the internship, my team and I created a Merger & Acquisitions pitch deck for an international merger and presented it to senior leaders.

I am happy to say that I have received an offer from JP Morgan to return in the Summer of 2023 as a Junior intern with the Global Corporate Bank as a summer analyst. This summer internship was incredible. Thank you so much to LUCA for always supporting me through everything. LUCA is making dreams come true!

Scholars in STEM

December 2021

Latino college graduates with a STEM degree remain at 12%, lower than that for all college graduates, according to PEW Research studies. At LUCA, our Scholars are Rewriting Statistics and increasing that number!

Esteban, Latino U Scholar ’20, is one of the many Scholars studying STEM. Check out what he’s up to this fall at Stanford University while studying Computer Science.


My fall quarter has been great! I got lucky to be assigned to the most popular sophomore dorm, where a lot of my friends live, and the rooms are huge.

In terms of academics, I am doing really well in my classes. I am enjoying my Introduction to Probability for Computer Scientists class, which has interesting material. This year, I was fortunate to get a return offer from the Computer Science research lab that I interned with over the summer, which is helping me grow as a computer scientist.

I am also enjoying my clubs! I have continued to work on a Mars simulation project and a Mars tractor project that I was involved in last year for the “Stanford Space Initiative.” I joined a machine learning club with my friends, too, and we will be entering into a machine learning competition together.

Right now, I am most excited about my winter quarter classes, Christmas, and summer internships. I applied to multiple tech companies and now getting some interviews back; I hope to land one of my dream internships for a company I really like as a software developer for summer 2022!

Scholars Abroad

November 2021

Meet Pilar! A Class of 2019 Latino U Scholar, Pilar is currently a junior at New York University where she is creating her own concentration titled Creation and Storytelling for Liberation.

This semester she is studying abroad in London as a part of the NYU Gallatin Program in Global Fashion! “London has been a treat, and I am so grateful to be here. If you’re thinking of studying abroad, this is your sign to DO IT!”

Here are some tips and tricks Pilar picked up so far:

  • Keep an open mind and heart. I didn’t think there’d be much of a culture shock from one English-speaking country to another, but I was totally wrong! Be ready for your beliefs to be challenged and remember that change is not a bad thing!
  • Allow time for rest and reflection. It’s easy to feel like you need to constantly see new things and go to new places, but remember it’s okay to do nothing, even when you’re abroad! Taking time to rest and recuperate energy is key.
  • Rely on your support system back home. Being away from home for so long is a new experience for many and it can totally get overwhelming sometimes – and that’s okay! Remember to lean on your friends and familia back home – they’re always cheering you on.
  • Pack your favorite American snack. Trust me.

While in London, Pilar met up with her volunteer College Coach and Londoner Camille!

Meet Bridget

May 2021

Meet Bridget! She is a Class of 2020 Latino U Scholar from Ossining High School and currently a sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania. We can still remember virtually meeting with Bridget last year as she was deciding which university to attend. We are so happy that she is thrilled with her decision and thriving at Penn!


I can’t believe I am almost done with my freshman year at Penn, and I wanted to fill you in on my experience and future plans.

The first semester was definitely a tough transition since everything was virtual and I wasn’t on campus. However, I managed to connect with people at Penn and adjusted to my college workload in a virtual setting. Fortunately, I was able to push through the difficulties and managed to get a 4.0 my first semester!! Although the courses have been challenging, I have enjoyed all of them and am currently leaning towards the Neuroscience major on a pre-med track.

For my second semester, we remained completely online, but I finally got to live on campus. The campus is absolutely beautiful, especially now that the weather is nice. I can imagine that there was more activity on campus in non-Covid years, but I am able to feel the vibrant community of students as I walk down Locust walk. Sometimes it still feels unreal that I am at Penn.

I have also gotten involved in a few organizations:

  • I am part of the Johnson Scholars program which supports Penn minority students that are interested in going into Medical school.
  • I also joined the physician shadowing committee in Penn Neuroscience Society and the awareness committee for FIMRC (Foundation for International Medical Relief of Children).
  • In the fall, I also became a TA for the neuro-pipeline program where we get to teach students in West Philly.
  • This semester I became involved in Puentes de Salud which is the clinic in South Philly that supports the Latino immigrant population. Through Puentes, I have been mentoring Latina high school students in Philly through their education program, and I will begin helping the clinic through phone calls and scheduling vaccination appointments. This has been the perfect way to connect to the Latino community and give back to the Philly community.

Finally, for my summer plans, I was able to get a paid summer research internship at Penn!! I will be conducting research in Dr. Irwin’s lab on Frontotemporal dementia which focuses on brain histopathology and neuroimaging analysis.

Next year will definitely be more challenging based on the schedule I have, but I am super excited to go to class in person, explore more interests, and meet new people.

Once again, thank you so much for everything you and LUCA have done, I wouldn’t have made it without you.

Meet Christopher & Carlos – Scholar and Coach Spotlight

July 2020

At the end of his junior year at White Plains High School, Christopher was nominated by his School Counselor to join the Latino U Scholars program. Once enrolled, Chris was matched with first-time volunteer College Coach Carlos Almodovar. Over the school year, they developed a very close bond. The pair would meet weekly at Starbucks to develop Christopher’s college list and work on his applications and personal statement.

Ultimately, Chris’ goal was to enroll in a college on the West Coast. With Carlos’ continued guidance and encouragement, Chris has decided to begin his college journey at Chapman University in California this fall.

Learn more about Chris and Carlos by reading our interview with them below.

What was it like working together as a Coach and Scholar?

Carlos: Working with Chris was a collaborative, insightful, and rewarding experience. During the course of our weekly sessions, I came to learn so much about Chris, his background, dreams, and aspirations. I could not have asked for a better Scholar and seeing Chris work diligently on his college application -despite all of his outside activities and responsibilities – motivated me to be the best Coach I can be.

Chris: Working with Carlos over the past couple of months was amazing, and I am beyond grateful for everything he has done for me. Since we first met, I saw how committed he was and how much he enjoyed helping, which meant a lot to me. We met on a weekly basis and every meeting was very productive. Carlos would also stay up late with me when I submitted my applications which is also something I really appreciated.

What’s something that you’ve learned from each other?

Carlos: Over time, I came to learn what Chris values in life and how these values shape his view on college. Chris is all about helping others, his faith, and seeing things through. He is also a person of great character and open to hearing different points of view. As we embarked on his college journey, these factors guided us to specific universities that also embodied these ideals. I appreciated his commitment to staying true to himself, which at a young age is not an easy thing to do.

Chris: Carlos is a man that loves what he does. He loves being with his family and would often share stories about his kids with me. Something that I admired from the very beginning was his commitment to LUCA and how much he wanted to help me succeed. He would always put his best effort into everything we did together and made sure we included everything needed in any of my essays and applications. Over time, I got to learn more about the type of person Carlos was and how much he enjoyed working with me.

What’s the best part about working together?

Carlos: The best part about working with Chris was hearing his perspective and views on different things. Chris is very thoughtful, and I enjoyed our conversations regarding colleges, family, sports, or other events going on in the world. It was during many of these conversations that I really got to know Chris and realized how special he is.

Chris: Carlos has helped me with a lot. He helped me with essays, scholarships, college applications, and more which all led to me getting into many of my dream schools. The most rewarding part of having him as my coach, however, is the bond that we were able to build during this time. Carlos got to know me very well personally, and I got to know him very well also. Carlos is someone that I hope stays in my life for a very long time. I would not trade the relationship we built for anything.

Carlos, what are your hopes for Chris’ future?

My hope for Chris’ immediate future is for him to truly experience all the possibilities that college and California have to offer. Long-term, I want Chris to find a career that is true to his values and allows him to use his creative and entrepreneurial talents.

Chris, what are you most excited about in this new chapter as you graduate high school and become a first-year student at Chapman University?

I’ve always been a person that loves trying new things – so I’d say that having new experiences, meeting new people, and seeing new places are what I am most excited about. College is a whole different world and is nothing like high school (from what I’ve heard), and I am excited to see what the future will look like. I am also excited to be able to contribute to the Hispanic community and communities of color by getting involved in clubs and events at my school or possibly even starting my own club. I am proud to be a first-generation Latino college student.

Carlos, what can you share about your experience as a volunteer College Coach?

In early 2019, I started to look for ways where I could actively give back to my community. I came across LUCA and can say that my experience as a volunteer College Coach has greatly exceeded my expectations. Knowing that I played a direct part in helping Chris achieve his college dreams was so fulfilling that I have signed up as a Coach for another year!

As a LUCA College Coach, you have the potential to directly impact the lives of first-generation students who lack the resources, finances, and experiences of other college applicants. There is no more rewarding and fulfilling experience than to work hand-in-hand with these amazing students on their college journey and to share in the joy of their family as they see the potential life changes that college can bring.

Meet Briana & Debra – Scholar and Coach Spotlight

March 2020

At the end of junior year, Briana was nominated by her counselor at Ossining High School to join the Latino U Scholars program. She was matched with her volunteer College Coach, Debra, and throughout the fall, the pair would meet weekly at the Ossining Public Library to develop Briana’s college list, work on applications, share book recommendations, and discuss current events.

“I feel so lucky that I have someone to talk to about the stress of college admissions. I couldn’t talk to my family about college applications in-depth, but Debra was always there to offer her advice and support, whether it be about college or anything else. She makes me feel confident even when I doubt myself,” Briana reflects.

Born in Ecuador, Briana was two years old when she immigrated to the United States with her mother; they have lived in Ossining ever since. Family has always been Briana’s number one motivation to pursue higher education, as they sacrificed so much for her to have better opportunities. “As the first person in my immediate family to graduate from high school and go to college, I want to be a role model for my younger brother and sister, so that they may be inspired to follow in my footsteps.”

Debra is an alumna of Cornell University and has been a volunteer College Coach for two years now. Both years have been incredibly fulfilling, as Debra has helped introduce first-generation students to the incredible opportunities before them, especially at schools they may never have considered before. “There are no words to express how gratifying it is to help Scholars recognize their own potential and achieve their dreams. The best part is making a friend in the process!”

Even while practicing social distancing, Debra continues to support Briana through phone conversations and text messages. After submitting 23 college applications and receiving 19 acceptances (so far!), Briana and Debra have shifted their focus to preparing for scholarship interviews – she is currently a finalist for the Hispanic Scholarship Fund, the Gates Scholarship, and the Handler Scholarship at the University of Rochester – and deciding on which school will be the best academic, social, and financial fit for Briana.

Briana recalls, “as a first-gen student, my parents only knew the big names like Harvard, Yale, and Princeton. I was very lost at the beginning of the process and had no idea which schools I wanted to apply to or what to look for in a school. Debra is a big advocate of finding the school that is right for me personally. She helped me determine that what I really want is a small school with a tight-knit community and a learning environment that is more collaborative than competitive.”

Debra firmly believes that the “sky’s the limit” for Briana. Her hope is that Briana will be happy and feel fulfilled in whatever she chooses to do. “Honestly, it has been a pleasure getting to know this wonderful, bright, kind, giving young woman, who succeeds in everything she does yet always considers others first. Opening her eyes to her own potential and watching her grow and become more confident has been the best part of this experience,” says Debra.

Once in college, Briana plans to pursue law after earning a bachelor’s degree in history. Her career dream is to work in litigation or become an immigration lawyer. “Ultimately, I want to give back to the Latino community and help others the way Latino U College Access has helped me.”