Viviana was an exemplary student and leader despite challenging circumstances growing up in Thornton, Colorado. Throughout her years at York International High School, Viviana and her family were often homeless and hungry, yet she was one of the few students in her district with a 4.0 GPA. She had the drive, determination, and understanding to recognize that making the most of her keen intellect would be the key to her success. She was captain of her school’s debate team, active in Junior ROTC, vice president of the National Honor Society, a member of the Girls Leadership Council, the student council and moot court – all while serving as a primary caregiver for her younger siblings.
Throughout high school, Viviana elected to take the most challenging courses possible, even convincing her counselor to allow her to take four college courses in one semester. She was willing and determined to do all that was necessary to achieve her dream of attending a top university. “My potential to succeed is immeasurable,” she wrote at the time. “All I need are the tools to prosper. The hardships that I face are only motivators, not defeaters. One day, there will be someone who will say, ‘I want to be like her when I grow up.'”
Viviana’s teachers recognized her not only as a talented student and passionate leader, but as a role model for students and adults alike. “Viviana fails to see the adversity at her feet,” one teacher wrote. “She looks only toward the future and works toward furthering her education.”
Click here to read one of Viviana’s eloquent and moving essays, published by the New York Times, in which she recalls what it was like to apply to college while homeless.
Photo credit: Kevin Moloney for the New York Times