Dreams of scholarships push Park City’s Latinos in Action students | ParkRecord.com

Dreams of scholarships push Park City’s Latinos in Action students

It used to be different.

But that was a long time ago, said Anna Williams, adviser for the Park City High School Latinos in Action Club. Now, going to college is an expectation for her students.

"When I started here 10 years ago, college wasn’t a part of our conversation," Williams said. "It was like, ‘Let’s make it from today until tomorrow. Let’s get through this class.’ Now, I’m asking the sophomores, ‘What college will you attend?’ It’s not even an "if."

Nineteen of the club’s newly graduated seniors will make that goal a reality this fall with the help of the Amelia Brink Scholarship. The scholarship, established by Park City Education Foundation donor Chris Brink in the name of his grandmother, allows Latinos in Action students to earn up to $2,200 by accomplishing various requirements, such as getting on the honor roll or participating in sports.

The LIA students were among 130 of their peers honored last week during the school’s annual Community Scholarship Awards Ceremony, where together, students were awarded $160,000 in scholarships.

Williams said many of the 19 Latino students, who all will be first-generation collegians, wouldn’t otherwise be able to attend college.

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"It’s so cool. It’s what we work for," she said, unsuccessfully fighting back tears. "It’s pretty amazing. I’m at a loss for words."

Perla Arreola said knowing the Amelia Brink Scholarship was available helped push her forward through high school. It won’t cover all of her college costs, but it certainly eases the burden.

"We’ve been told for a while to work hard because we are going to go to college," she said. "We’ve been trying to focus on that, and it’s really exciting to see that what we’ve been planning on for a long time is going to come soon. And the scholarships are really going to help. I’m still going to have to work to pay for college, but it’s motivation that hard work does pay off."

Efrain Valeriano added that he’s simply excited to get to college and utilize his scholarship.

"All of us have done so much just to get to where we are today," he said. "It’s amazing that we’re going to be going into the real world."

Williams said the scholarship not only benefits this year’s recipients but also younger Latino students, who can now view going to college as a realistic goal.

"Our younger students can say, ‘Whoa, she lives in my apartment complex, and she’s going to Utah State. I’m not so different from her,’" Williams said. "Whereas before, the kids who were going off to college with high GPAs and who had been enrolled in AP classes were kids who were not members of their community. That change is pretty amazing."