Camila Marmolejo

What does inspiration mean to you and how would you use your platform in your future career to inspire others?

I consider inspiration to serve as motivation to continue following your dreams and doing acts of kindness. Some individuals inspire others by setting an example through hard work, perseverance, dedication, and compassion. Sometimes people go through difficult times and are close to giving up, but by having a source of inspiration they can overcome the obstacles.

For the first eight years of my life, I lived in Tijuana, Mexico. It was the delinquency that forced my family and me to immigrate to the United States. Uncertainty penetrated my soul as I fled my home country. All my childhood memories and most of my extended family were left behind. I had the opportunity to be anyone I wanted to be and to neglect my culture, traditions and get rid of my maternal language to be able to fit in society. Not only did I have a language barrier but I struggled with my identity because as a child now living in the US, I noticed the lack of representation of female Mexican Americans pursuing a higher education while honoring their origins. My family values shaped me into the person I am today and I am proud to acknowledge my roots and traditions. I have kept my maternal language which is the only way I can communicate with my family.

My goals completely pivoted because I was able to truly embark on a journey and have the opportunity to pursue a career I truly love. Back in Mexico, not in a million years could I have dreamed of becoming a doctor due to the financial obstacle, the lack of resources, and the toxic masculinity. Suddenly in this new country, it became a possibility. I could attend school without having the fear of being physically abused by the teachers, unlike my parents and grandparents who were beaten back in Mexico for misbehavior. In the United States, it only takes 4 hours of minimum wage labor to earn the same amount as a person in Mexico working a whole week, all day long. Poverty rates continue to rise and young children are in the streets begging for money instead of attending school. This could have been my reality if I stayed in my home country.

My passion for the medical field arose when I started volunteering at the Jose Montano Foundation, founded by a childhood cancer patient. As a future hematology oncologist, I hope to assist cancer patients and their family members. I would like to work in my local low income community in San Diego, California to serve patients across the border, in Tijuana, Mexico. I would like to start a non profit organization to provide access to cancer prevention and treatments to low income communities. Now that I have the opportunity to represent my culture in the United States, I want to serve as an inspiration for minority students to pursue a higher education and give back to the community.

What are you currently doing to inspire those around you?

Living near the US Mexico Border made me realize each student has a unique story, yet they constantly disregard how impactful it can be. Students wake up at dusk to cross the border every day to get to school on time. Others such as myself work to help sustain their families. Coming from a low-income community in which around 80% of adults didn’t attend college, exposed me to the issue of underrepresentation of Chicanos attending college and pursuing higher education. An issue that has not been properly addressed.

Some stereotypes portray Chicano students as lazy, but the truth is that being an underrepresented, first-generation, and low income, proves to be a struggle. There is a lack of resources and information regarding college programs, applications, and financial aid. Students tend to stress during their senior year and they are uncertain about whether or not to apply or how to apply. Moreover, they can’t rely on their parent’s help for college applications, because they did not go to college and do not understand the college application process.

It is not that students don’t want to pursue a higher education, but they are deprived of opportunities and information. There are also common misconceptions such as that attending college is very expensive, and while tuition is usually at a high cost, there are scholarships available and opportunities for low-income students to go to college debt-free or to reduce their overall tuition. The greater problem now is that students are not aware of such opportunities. Chicano students generally doubt themselves and tend to believe that they are not capable of pursuing higher education due to the centuries of oppression in which we were constantly told we were not capable of being anything else than laborers.

This is an issue I am passionate about because as a representative of the Chicano low income community, I know there is potential, but it's constantly overlooked and taken for granted. As a first-generation low income student, I have experienced the difficulty for students like me to attend college because we are not encouraged to do so, instead more limitations are imposed. We are underrepresented and therefore struggle to identify ourselves in a college campus setting. I don’t think one’s socioeconomic status should determine whether or not they will further their education, therefore as an intern for First Gen Scholars, I decided to integrate this concept into my school by establishing the First Gen Scholars Club to assist underserved students and encourage them to apply to college. We guide them throughout the college application process by providing essay tips and sample essays, as well as informing them about financial aid and scholarship opportunities. I have also helped other schools in San Diego establish their own First Gen Scholars club. I hope to see these students thrive and overcome themselves by receiving proper guidance and assistance.

What you would do with the scholarship award if you were to receive it?

If I am awarded the scholarship, I would like to purchase a laptop because I am currently borrowing the school laptop and have to return it. I know that I will need a laptop to be able to apply to colleges, as to use it once I am in college. The scholarship will help me pay for that because otherwise, I wouldn’t be able to afford it.

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