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Scholarship winner to be first in family to attend college

Daughter of immigrant parents weighs options for future

Leer en Español, traducido por El Vocero Hispano

Grand Rapids — Diane Vazquez, a senior at Southwest Middle High School, will be the first person in her family to attend college, thanks in part to the Inherit the Dream scholarship.

Diane was one of four GRPS students to receive the scholarship this year. She told SNN she was shocked to learn she was among the winners.

“I never thought I would have won it,” Diane said. “When they emailed me about it, I was just super surprised and really happy about it.”

The scholarship is given to seniors who come from underserved communities or who aspire to be first-generation college students. Winners are picked based on essays about post-secondary education, and are chosen by a selection committee composed of representatives from Grand Rapids Community College, Davenport University and Grand Valley State University.

‘Being a first-generation college student means that I will have the opportunity to pursue a career … the opportunity my parents dreamed of me having one day.’

— Senior Diane Vazquez

Expanding Possibilities

Diane’s essay focused on the benefits of continuing one’s education, and how doing so can expand possibilities for later in life.

“I wrote that (earning a degree) can open up many opportunities,” Diane said. “You can find out more about yourself and what you’d like to do in the future and for the rest of your life.”

Diane credits her parents with instilling in her a desire to get all that she can out of her education. Her parents immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico years ago with big dreams of seeing their children find success. 

Her scholarship, Diane said, is the start of that dream being realized.

“For my parents, this opportunity means that leaving their country and all their sacrifice is paying off,” she said. “Being a first-generation college student means that I will have the opportunity to pursue a career and have the opportunity my parents dreamed of me having one day.”

Diane also counts school counselor Alyssa Zahra as an inspiration. Zahra said the respect between the two runs both ways. 

“I am honored that Diane views me as being a part of her receiving this scholarship,” Zahra said. “Diane is very hard-working and definitely put in the effort that she needed to in order to make sure she was able to attend college after high school.

“All I had to do was provide her with the opportunity and she ran with it.” 

Zahra said she and the other staff members at Southwest are “extremely proud” of the senior. 

What Comes Next

Scholarships range from $1,000 to $2,000, and Diane said any amount of financial assistance is extremely helpful.

“A scholarship is a scholarship,” she said. “No matter how much money it is, it can still help you get through college, and it’s still something really big for me and my family since we don’t come from a very high income. It was just really nice to share that with them.”

Inherit the Dream scholarship recipients were joined by their families during a ceremony at Fountain Street Church in January (courtesy)

Diane said she’s still undecided about which college she’ll attend, but she’s eyeing GVSU and GRCC, with the goal being some sort of career in the medical field.

“I’d like to become a NICU nurse; those nurses work on little kids and babies,” she said. “I’ve always wanted a job that works with little kids because I love them. I feel like it will just feel nice to help a mother bring another life into the world.”

The other winners of this year’s Inherit the Dream scholarship were Tyreeze Buchanan of Ottawa Hills High School, Jordan Hampton of Grand Rapids University Preparatory Academy and Meissin Monterroso-Mazariegos of Grand Rapids University Preparatory Academy.

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Riley Kelley
Riley Kelley
Riley Kelley is a reporter covering Cedar Springs, Grand Rapids, East Grand Rapids and Sparta school districts. An award-winning journalist, Riley spent eight years with the Ludington Daily News, reporting, copy editing, paginating and acting as editor for its weekly entertainment section. He also contributed to LDN’s sister publications, Oceana’s Herald-Journal and the White Lake Beacon. His reporting on issues in education and government has earned accolades from the Michigan Press Association and Michigan Associated Press Media Editors. Riley’s early work in journalism included a stint as an on-air news reporter for WMOM Radio, and work on the editorial staff of various student publications. Riley is a graduate of Grand Valley State University. He originally hails from western Washington.


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