(BPT) - When Gloria Castaneda walks through the classroom doors at Yale and takes her seat in her biology classes, she knows she's come a long way from her hometown of Redwood City, California.
And the distance is more than simple geography.
The daughter of Mexican immigrants, Castaneda has life experiences her schoolmates could never fathom. When she was 10-years-old, her older brother was shot and killed. After his passing, Castaneda realized it would be up to her to support her family. She helped her parents - neither of whom speaks English - deal with the daily struggles they faced in the United States. It was these challenges that fueled Castaneda's drive to do more for her family and herself.
A student at a poorly-funded, public middle school in the area, Castaneda's life changed when she earned acceptance to a private high school. 'It was a huge culture shock for me,' she says. Castaneda did more than overcome her shock, she thrived. She earned strong marks in high school and joined a program for students looking to attend college and find as many grants and scholarships as possible. Castaneda described the concept of attending college as an 'ingrained idea' but she says she only really understood how important it would be to continue her education after her brother died.
It was during this pursuit that Castaneda found out about Becas Univision, a scholarship offered through the Hispanic Scholarship Fund. The scholarship is just one component of Univision Contigo's education platform, which provides year-round resources, tools and programs to help Hispanic families be more engaged in their children's education, from early childhood development to college readiness. Today, one in every four public school students in the United States is Hispanic, making initiatives like this all the more critical.
'Unvision Contigo allows us to stand side by side with our community on the issues most important to them,' said Roberto Llamas, executive vice president of Human Resources and Community Empowerment, Univision Communications, Inc. 'Each of the programs under our four pillars: education, health, prosperity and civic engagement, are developed to support the continued growth of the Hispanic students like Gloria and families like hers across the country.'
For the fifth year in a row, Univision Contigo has hosted its annual Education Week, dedicating on-air programming and utilizing its digital platforms and community events to highlight a wide spectrum of relevant topics important to Hispanic America. These topics include early childhood development, college readiness, K-12 academic performance, access to broadband and technology, parental engagement in their child's education, as well as student empowerment and student-advocacy.
For Castaneda, the passion for public health and science was already there. Supported by the Univision scholarship and her financial aid package, Castaneda was accepted to and enrolled at Yale. She is currently a sophomore majoring in biology, but she plans to pursue a career in medicine and become a neurosurgeon.
In her first two years at Yale, Castaneda says she's enjoyed the different cultural centers that Yale offers and the new experiences that come with being a Californian on the east coast. But while she's enjoying her time at school, she hasn't lost her focus. 'The most important part is what you manage to get out of it,' she says of college.
And Castaneda is focused on getting as much as she can. New laws have made health care and jobs harder to come by for her parents, and she says it's tough never knowing they have everything they need. She hopes her degree and future career will enable her to help them, and once her parents are taken care of, she has larger goals in sight. 'I want to do something more important than what I've done,' she says. 'I want to do something meaningful for the world.'
To learn more about how Univision Communications Inc. is helping Hispanic parents and students through its empowerment platform, Univision Contigo, visit UnivisionContigo.com.