I know that I am standing on the shoulders of giants. I’ve gone from being helped by others to helping others. I’ve found my place, my path, and I have clear goals for my future.
My family immigrated to the United States from Venezuela when I was 12 years old. In Venezuela, my mother was a lawyer by trade. Since her credentials couldn’t carry over with our green cards, she was required to take on multiple jobs. My mom went from being a lawyer to working at Bed, Bath, and Beyond for 12 hours a day. She came home exhausted, but happy to see us and to hear that we were doing well in school. My parents will do anything to ensure my brother, and I get a quality education.
My parents don’t have a lot of faith in public institutions because of the way Venezuela has declined. Therefore, I’ve always attended private school. For them, that was the answer. They wanted a school that would instill in us the values of hard work, discipline, and the pursuit of greatness. They hoped that private institutions would do that. So, although we struggled financially, they paid out- of -pocket for us to attend a private school.
In the eighth grade, when the time came to find a high school to attend, I heard about Christopher Columbus High School from some friends. I have friends whose dads, grandfathers, uncles, cousins, brothers, etc. have all gone to this school. I am not a legacy student, but I knew I had to attend Columbus. And my parents made it happen. They put their pride in the art of education.
My unofficial motto is: Never give up and use your shortcomings and hardships as motivation to excel in the classroom and beyond.
My freshman year at Columbus was financially strenuous on my family. We got so behind in payments that I was almost forced to drop out. That’s when we found out about the Step Up for Students scholarship! I am incredibly grateful because it allowed me to stay at Christopher Columbus High School.
To pay tuition to two private schools, we lived in a small apartment with one bathroom, and we didn’t always have electricity and water. Now we’re in a nicer home, our electricity bill gets paid, and our water doesn’t get cut off.
Since I excel academically, each year, I’ve been able to participate in the gifted program sponsored by the Moss brothers, which includes an internship. I’ve interned with a Los Angles based law firm, two medical malpractice attorneys, a judge, and a real estate agency. I was hired part-time by the medical malpractice lawyer. That experience has been really enriching so far.
I want to follow my mother’s lead by doing something that is law-oriented. Columbus High School has given me the support that I need to do so. I have a full-ride scholarship to the University of Miami this Fall. I plan to study business and then go to law school. Since I am staying in Miami, I know the connections I have built at Columbus will come in handy. I am blessed to have such a great support group.
I have grown from being a boy to a young man. Receiving the scholarship has opened my eyes to the different opportunities given to the people around me. It has been a catalyst for why I choose to give back. During the past three years, I’ve become an avid volunteer in my community and beyond. I work at a center for impoverished kids in Downtown Miami. Last year, I worked to renovate their basketball court. I even threw the kids a Halloween party at Columbus.
For the past two years, another Venezuelan student and I have led a project called Cover for Love. We collect tons of school uniforms and donate them to communities in Venezuela because they often don’t have them to go to class. After the hurricane in the Bahamas last year, I sent uniforms, water bottles, and other items to lend a hand. I am grateful for the opportunities given to me by my school and the Step-Up program. I will continue to give back in meaningful ways because I got a hand when I needed it most.