I dreamt about my freshman year at Florida State University many times…

I never imagined it like this. I envisioned campus life to be a busy social scene, not socially distanced. I figured most of my time in the dorm would be spent sleeping, not staring at my computer screen on virtual classes. I haven’t seen the inside of a lecture hall since I’ve been here. But still, writing this letter to you as an FSU freshman is a dream come true. And while it has been my dream for many years, this dream started with my mother.

I’d be half asleep, but I still remember the smile on her face when she came in to kiss me goodnight after her 16-hour workday. She would only get around four hours of sleep before she’d have to start her routine all over again. My mother’s menial wages from grueling workdays were never spent on luxurious items; they were used to provide the necessities for our family to live. Watching my mother struggle and sacrifice has molded me into who I am. She has taught me to work hard, be grateful for what I have, and seize every opportunity given. Her inspiration is what led my brother, Bryan, and me to Grace Place for Children and Families.

I joined the LEAD program, then called AP Leadership, in 2016. I received academic help; I learned about my options after high school and got help navigating applying for colleges. I gained hands-on work experience, and I learned the importance of establishing connections and proper etiquette. This experience motivated me to pursue more.

I attended the Georgetown University International Relations Summer Program in 2019. Grace Place helped with tuition and travel expenses, so I was able to participate. I became a Youth Leadership Collier graduate and class president for both my junior and senior years. In the spring of 2019, I received the Harvard Book Prize, which is annually given to only 2,000 student leaders nationwide. Additionally, I received the AFP Outstanding Philanthropic Youth Award in recognition of my dedication to community service.

It’s amazing what you can accomplish with a dream and support from people who believe in you. In 2019, my brother became the first in our family to graduate college. In May of 2024, I will become the second. We have started a new cycle for our family.