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Esmeralda, Age 18

HOLA Alumna and Dickinson Freshman
My name is Esmeralda. I am Mexican-American and I am currently attending a private, residential liberal arts college in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, called Dickinson College. At Dickinson I feel as though I represent the new generation of Latinas emerging in search of higher education.

How did you find out about HOLA?
Jose Acosta walked into my English class announcing the Princeton Review SAT Prep classes at HOLA had begun. I remember he made a compelling speech about how failure and success was fully up to us and one of the first steps was scoring high on the SAT.

What was your home situation like when you were coming to HOLA?
I lived in Echo Park with all my brothers and sisters, which amounted to 9 people including my mother. Everyone at home was working except my younger brother age 10 and I. No one in my family had ever attended a university, let alone seen an application for financial aid or college.

What motivated you to come to HOLA after going to school all day?
What kept me motivated to continue my participation at HOLA after a whole school day was the notion that this was “the extra mile” that, in the end, would pay off. I knew that as a Latina growing up in the city of Los Angeles and attending its school system, I would one day have to “go the extra mile” for higher education. HOLA was that “extra mile.” To this day, I never regret walking to HOLA after school, buying chips at the liquor store, which would soon become my dinner, and attending the tedious SAT Prep classes. I am truly thankful for the existence of HOLA.

When you get off track, how do you get yourself back in the race?
I get back in the race by remembering the look on my mother’s eyes the day of my departure to college, and the notion that my family is expecting a successful woman to one day come back after four hard years of school with a degree in hand.

Who is your HOLA hero? Why?
My HOLA hero will forever be Jose Acosta. I will never forget that morning in my English class when he opened the biggest door in my education. If it were not for Jose, I would have never had the chance to meet such hardworking people like Tony Brown, Andrea Cova and my mentor, Michael Ziering.

Did anyone at HOLA go the extra mile for you?
Yes, the SAT Prep classes were full and no more students were able to sign up. I remember pulling Cynthia aside and telling her that, “I did not mind sitting on the floor or by the door” as long as she would allow my friend and I to be part of the class. Despite this, they went the extra mile for my friend Crystal and I to participate.

What is the biggest difference that HOLA made for you?
HOLA was the center where all my questions about college or financial aid were answered. This itself was the biggest difference.

Did HOLA help you get into college? If so, how?
The Posse Foundation granted me a full tuition scholarship, but HOLA supported me through the intense interviewing process of Posse, the development of my essay, the SAT prep classes and the appointment of a mentor with whom I continue to keep close contact with.

What was your college essay about?
My college essay was about how I was affected by the absence of my father and the struggles of my mother.

What three lessons did you learn at HOLA that has helped you at school and in adult life?
Three lessons learned: Don’t procrastinate! Put your best foot forward! And never give up!

Who do you want to be?
I have not yet narrowed down my options of what I would like to become, but if I must choose, a psychologist/pediatrician/biologist/advisor and influential activist. I know there is no such person with a title such as this, but I could be the first.


HOLA Profiles offer a inside look at the students, alumni, teachers and volunteers who make HOLA an exceptional place for underserved children in Los Angeles. We invite you to read their stories.

Past Profiles:
Christian, Age 18 – HOLA Alumnus who triumphed over adversity.
Camila & Kamila, Ages 13 and 12 – Two middle schoolers with similar names and big dreams.


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