Building a família

Saugus High senior Amanda Reyes represented the Santa Clarita Valley at the Hispanic Scholarship Fund Youth Leadership Institute held at USC over the weekend. Courtesy photo

One Saugus High School rising senior represented the entire Santa Clarita Valley at the final Hispanic Scholarship Fund Youth Leadership Institute of the year, which was held at the University of Southern California this past weekend.

Out of 3,500 applicants, Amanda Reyes was the lone SCV student selected to attend last week’s institute, which offered four days of college-related panels, workshops and seminars.
After receiving an email inviting her to apply to the Hispanic Scholarship Fund program, Reyes said, “I thought it was a scam,” but after some research, she believed the program could provide her with the tools to succeed in college.

“Everyone was put into a família, which contained six kids and a mentor,” Reyes said, and allowed everybody to form a sense of community and build relationships.

“It’s nice to know you’ll always have a connection to the people you met,” she said. “It’s also empowering to be in a room with everyone who’s facing the same struggles as you,” in regards to financial aid and college admission — two subjects that Reyes felt clueless about going into the weekend.

Every morning, the 456 students woke up early in the morning for breakfast, so they’d be ready to learn that day’s specific topic, Reyes said.

Following the first day’s introductions and lessons on college terminology, students were taught what to expect during the college admission process and personal statement portion of the application.

A panel of admissions officers from the UCLA, UC San Diego, USC and Loyola Marymount University were available to answer any questions the students had and provide tips on how to prepare, plan and pay for college.

“One of the most inspiring things was the Hispanic heroes session,” Reyes said of the segment, in which movie industry professionals shared stories along with lawyers and other successful speakers.

“Some were HSF scholars who received scholarships,” Reyes said, “which made me think that (the program) would always be there to help and support me.”
On the last day, students were given certificates and a three-course meal, Reyes said, to teach attendees proper etiquette so they never have to feel embarrassed about choosing which fork to use.

“I know it’s cheesy,” but the event was life-changing, Reyes said.

“I went in knowing nothing,” she added, “but it made me really excited and confident to apply to my dream school,” which is Western Washington University. She hopes to turn her passion for education into a teaching career.

“The whole trip was awesome,” she said. “I’d definitely recommend it to anybody who’s interested in going to college.”

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