DOWNEY – A first-generation college student from a family born in Jalisco, Mexico, Alejandra Barreto moved to Downey from Lynwood when she was in middle school.
Attending West (now Stauffer) Middle School her seventh-grade year, then transitioning as a freshman to Warren High School, Alejandra’s parents always encouraged her to strive for success. On Saturday, April 15, while on her way to compete against the best students across California for the SkillsUSA State Competition, Alejandra received an email that would change her life.
“I wish I was with my parents when I read the email, but I was around my friends and SkillsUSA team when I got the news... and all I did was cry,” said Alejandra.
Being one of only 300 students across the nation selected out of a pool of 28,700 applicants, Alejandra was made aware that she was chosen to be a Gates Scholar. Attaining this designation meant that she was a member of the Gates Scholarship Inaugural Class of 2018 and joined an elite group of young leaders from across the U.S.
This prestigious scholarship will not only pay for her tuition, but includes all factors that will contribute to her success during her undergraduate years, including fees, housing, books, transportation, health insurance and other various costs.
Alejandra will be attending USC in the fall, double majoring in Human Biology and Spanish, at completely no cost to her or her family. This scholarship will also provide her the opportunity to travel abroad for a semester, have a “Maymester” in Spain (an additional semester in May to study abroad) and a paid internship.
She will be graduating from Warren High on June 1, with a state weighted G.P.A. of 4.92, the second highest in her class. She has competed in the SkillsUSA competitions, making it to the national level three times, and has also been a successful student athlete, playing varsity water polo and swimming all four years at Warren High.
“This scholarship is given to a first-generation college student to support them in advancing their education in STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics] fields,” stated Warren High School principal Laura Rivas. “We are all so extremely proud of Alejandra and can’t wait to see what her future holds.”
Alejandra also received additional scholarships at Warren High School’s Senior Awards Night Wednesday evening that will also contribute to her education post-graduation. These include scholarships in various denominations from Delta Kappa Gamma, Financial Partners Credit Union, Downey Association of Realtors and others.
With the funds she will be receiving from these various scholarships combined, Alejandra plans to use the remaining money to establish a college fund for her younger sister.
“I know it takes a village, I’ve seen it here at Warren. I wouldn’t have been able to do this without the help of many of my teachers,” expressed Alejandra. “And through this scholarship, I hope to continue to do the same for others and influence them to follow their dreams.”
Alejandra plans on attending medical school after graduating from USC and becoming a pediatrician.
“My goal would be to touch the lives of as many people as possible. Through internships, I’d hope to be able to influence my student interns who then move on to have their own interns and so on… the exponential growth effect, just by being selected for the Gates Scholarship.”
The Gates Scholarship will fund 300 students per year, starting with 2018, totaling 3,000 students over the life of the program.
With the launch of this program in 2017, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation continues its long-standing commitment to helping outstanding minority students who come from low-income backgrounds realize their maximum potential.
This scholarship program is based on evidence that by eliminating the financial barriers to college, an all-expenses-paid scholarship can enable high-potential, low-income minority students to excel in their course work, graduate college, and continue to be leaders throughout their lives.
In addition to funding, The Gates Scholarship will provide further support to scholars, by engaging with them and their institutions in a variety of ways, to ensure they have access to the resources and services they need, from their first to last day of classes, through graduation and the transition to their chosen careers.