Scholar Spotlights  

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.

— ESTEBAN’S FALL UPDATE

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!

— BRIDGET’S FRESHMAN YEAR REFLECTION

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.”