Meet the 2023 Scholars

Get to know the hopes, dreams, and talents of this year's winners.

Mariela A.

Graduate Recipient

"Write a letter to your younger self during a key moment in your life addressing one or more of the following: words of encouragement, lessons you have learned and/or challenges you have overcome."

Dear younger self, I write to you with utmost gratitutde. Thank you for not giving up, for persevering, and for not losing hope. All your efforts are the reason you are still here today. In life, you can’t always control your circumstances, but you can choose to be an alchemist: to rise above your adversities and ameliorate any situation. I was diagnosed with CF at 11 months in El Salvador where there was no access to CF treatment. Consequently, my parents and I moved to New York from El Salvador after I was born. However, financial hardships and other factors split my parents up. When my mother got divorced, we moved to California to start a new life. My first memory in California was one filled with joy and laughter: Disneyland. After visiting Disneyland, the illusion of a fairy-tale world seemed preposterous. The reality was that my mother was single and raising a child with no job. The first year we resided in my aunt’s living room and my mother had a small job at a local factory, but she barely made enough to satisfy my basic needs. I’ve learned from my mother’s efforts that life is full of opportunity, but you have to make a choice to take risks. My mother risked it all when she moved across the country on her own, giving up her career in hopes of a better life for the both of us. I turned 23 last month. Looking back I am grateful for all the choices made by myself and others that have brought me here today. Everyday I made the choice to keep going despite setbacks. I recall being hospitalized frequently, sometimes for weeks at a time. Sitting on the hospital bed, I would look out the window and find solace looking at the happy patients who were leaving. I kept myself busy through singing, writing music, reading, and focusing on my studies. I remember all the nurses would tell me I was one of the happiest patients. It wasn’t that I was happy to be in the hospital, but I knew it was better to be optimistic. I learned to view the hospital as an opportunity for healing. Given the opportunity to be here in good health, I am making the choice to pursue a graduate degree in Clinical Psychology with an emphasis in Marriage and Family therapy. This past year, I completed my bachelor’s in psychology with a summa cum laude distinction and I will be starting my masters program in August. I hope to support clients who have experienced trauma and empower them to make the choice to keep going. I make the choice to prioritize my health so that I can keep going and serve as a beacon of hope. I hope to inspire others to stop letting opportunity pass by; to become passionate, inspired, and be an alchemist. Sincerely, Your future self

Mariela A.'s Artwork

Mariela A.'s Achievements

  • Summa Cum Laude Honors (San Diego State University)
  • National Visionary Leader (Hidden Voices-WeAreHere)
  • Enrichment Educator (Professor Egghead Science Academy)
  • Developmental Client Coach (Positive Development)
  • SDSU Womxn Empowered (Served as VP and President)
  • Sierra School of San Diego (Intern)
  • Tutor (SDSU Pathways program)