ROCKINGHAM — The valedictorian of the 2019 graduating class of Richmond Early College High School was recently recognized as one of several winners of a $10,000 scholarship for Latino students.
Alison Juarez Padron, of Rockingham, is one of 15 winners of the Maná Scholarship Program, established earlier this year by the Latin American pop rock band, Maná, in partnership with the Selva Negra Foundation and Univision Foundation.
The scholarship assists students who identify as Latino and who plan to continue their education in college or vocational school programs, according to a description.
Only the first 1,000 applications were considered.
The winners — who hail fromCalifornia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, North Carolina, New Mexico, Ohio, and Oklahoma —were in Los Angeles this weekend and had a behind the scenes concert experience with members of Maná.
The winners, some of whom are DACA recipients like Padron, were selected based on their work including help for their communities and dedication to helping improve the environment in their area, according to a Univision spokesman.
When Padron was 2 years old, her parents decided to leave everything behind “to move to a country where they barely knew anyone, to learn a new language and to start from zero in order to give their baby girl a chance at a better life,” she said at this year’s commencement ceremony.
“Growing up I was like any child with dreams of being a teacher in addition to a ballerina-doctor who goes to the moon,” she said.
When she was 15, Padron said she finally began to realize what it meant to be born in another country and the struggles that come with it.
Padron said her “world began to crumble” with the news of eliminating the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
But her parents wouldn’t let her give up.
“As a DACA student, it often feels as if your hard work is pointless,” she said. “Aid is difficult to receive and we are charged full out-of-state tuition despite the fact of having lived in the states our whole life.”
Although she had to sacrifice a lot, Padron said it didn’t make make her journey any more important than her classmates’.
“We are all give our own struggles, our own battles,” she said. “I do not know what it cost you to be sitting here with me today.
“Perhaps you did not have someone who supported you, maybe you had a loss in your family, maybe your a from a single-parent household, or perhaps you face inner problems,” she added. “Despite it all, you are here and you have made it this far. You will be faced with many more difficulties, but I believe in every one of you.”
Padron encouraged her fellow students to take advantage of opportunities given, not to forget the importance of gratitude and to humble themselves to all they encounter.
Switching to Spanish, she thanked her parents and told them “… everything I do is to make you proud of me.”