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Spring 2024 Immigrant Student Scholarship Winner

Leslie Lopez-Aguilar

Leslie Lopez-Aguilar is a college student attending Old Dominion University. Originally from Mexico, Leslie is self-motivated to be the absolute best she can be. As a first-year college student, Leslie worked extremely hard to get to this point and is determined to keep on pushing forward. We cannot wait to see what Leslie accomplishes in college and beyond.

Leslie Lopez-Augilar

Read Leslie's Essay:

I would say my greatest motivation for wanting to go to college would be my parents. I hate to admit it, but they weren't always my motivation. Que dijo, is a question that I am very familiar with and have been asked throughout my life, it means what did he say in Spanish. From a simple trip to the grocery store or going to a doctor's appointment, I was certain I would encounter that dreadful question. With my face turning red and my shaky voice, my parents would wonder why I would act like that when I heard that question. Growing up it was challenging trying to explain to them that I was under a lot of stress and aggravated that they could not speak English.

Ever since I began to go to school and understood how to read and write in English, my parents always asked for my support when needed. From the start, I quickly realized that with my parents and I being from Mexico and being an undocumented student, I would have more responsibility compared to other students. My greatest challenge as an undocumented student was staying motivated, but what I feel makes me unique is the fact that I would go to school every day and give it my all although I did not know if I would be able to attend college. This always worried me because I was scared that all the work I did would be for nothing. There were times I felt like giving up because I never knew for certain if I would be able to go to college or if my parents would be able to afford it since I was not able to apply for FASFA or any other aid.

I told my parents multiple times that I would not go to college if I would just end up with a lot of debt and I for sure did not want to burden them with that. I witnessed firsthand how money was the reason for my cousin not finishing college. She was an honor roll student and worked very hard in school. When the time came for her to start applying to colleges, she got accepted into many schools, but she could not fill out her FASFA because she too was undocumented. She still did not give up and decided to attend a community college, but even then, she and her parents had a hard time paying for it. She ultimately made the decision to drop out. At the beginning of my senior year, I was under a lot of stress because I knew I still could not apply for FASFA and thought for sure that I would have the same outcome as my cousin. Even then my parents always reminded me to never lose hope and that it will all work out. And they were right. I was lucky enough to meet my teacher Rachael Benner and my Access counselor, Apollos Hall. They helped me go through this whole college process. Mr. Hall told me about VASA and how it is an alternative form of aid given to undocumented students. We also discovered that I would be eligible for in-state tuition at Old Dominion University since I was initially labeled as an out-of-state student.

I am grateful that VASA opened just as I was entering my senior year. Now, knowing that VASA will help me with college I do not have to worry about all my hard work going to waste. I am thankful for going through this process while maintaining a 4.2 GPA. What makes me even happier knowing that VASA exists, is that multiple undocumented students just like me across Virginia will also have access to it and can not only pursue a college education but a better life. I want to do so much with my future being that I have been given so many great opportunities to be successful. Although I am currently undecided and unsure of what I want to pursue, I know that I want a career that allows me to assist people like my family and me, whether that be in a financial or medical setting. That was just a little information about me, and I hope you enjoyed reading my story.

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