Edgar Orozco is an example that, with perseverance and effort, a person can win a scholarship to top-level universities like Harvard, despite having received an education below that generally demanded by colleges of that type.
"When I was in third grade a teacher told us to write what our biggest wish was. Some wrote that they wanted to be an astronaut or police officer. I drew the Miramonte (elementary) school building, but where the name appeared I wrote Harvard," Orozco, who earned a full scholarship to Harvard to study mechanical engineering, told Efe.
"I put Harvard because I thought that it's the best to which I could aspire. So, when the letter arrived last year in which they told me they had accepted me in the engineering school I couldn't believe it," he added.
His scholarship amounts to $56,000 per year to cover the cost of tuition, housing, food and medical insurance.
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Born on May 5, 1993, in Los Angeles, Orozco is the son of Mexicans who immigrated to the United States in the early 1980s.
"I learned that I could seek a scholarship at Harvard from Juan Hernandez-Campos, who is about to finish his engineering studies on a scholarship at Harvard and is a member of the extracurricular activities organization After School All-Stars," Orozco said.
Hernandez-Campos "told me that, besides good grades, at universities like Harvard they take into account activities outside school or community service tasks," and so the young man participated in After School All-Stars, Los Angeles.
"LA All-Stars provides a secure environment to which students come after school to participate in an hour of personal enrichment tutoring at which we motivate them not to drop out of school, to study at colleges and the result is that they raise their academic performance," Shannon Mayock, a spokesperson for the program, told Efe.
"In the low-income areas, parents don't have the time or the money to enroll their children in leadership, visual arts and acting, dance (or) sports programs, which is what we offer," Mayock said.
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Orozco began his studies last fall at Harvard and when he finishes he's intending to go on for a Master's degree at Stanford or MIT.
"At Harvard, I feel that the public school systems where I come from do not prepare us for the demands of these big league universities," Orozco said.
"I come with a disadvantage, and so I have to study very hard to get good grades, and the difference from my classmates who come from private schools is that they have been prepared to do well in everything that is demanded here," he said.
In the face of this situation, the student decided that when he finishes his studies he will devote himself to fighting to promote a reform of the U.S. education system so that public schools prepare students well to perform in the best universities in the United States and the world.