Laura Rendon Albarracin always dreamt of going into government to empower women and advocate for the working class.
Thanks to a $25,000 scholarship from the Horatio Alger Association she's wrapping up her first semester in a four-year political science program at Saint Joseph's University in Clinton Hill and turning those dreams into plans.
Albarracin, a first-generation college student living in a single-parent home, moved to the United States four years ago from Colombia due to changes in her family, and, not knowing any English, worked "three times harder" to graduate an all-English-speaking high school in Queens.
"I thought maybe they would give it to someone who was born here, but when I got the scholarship, I got very emotional," Albarracin said. "I couldn't believe it. I started crying and I texted my mom from the school bathroom."
Albarracin's hard work in school and leadership experience at the Whitney Museum Youth Insights internship program, where she connected with other second-language English students and eventually mentored students like herself, paid off.
The scholarship means Albarracin's family does not have to take out any loans for her to continue her education. "I just want to keep learning and show people that no matter if you are not from the U.S., you can still achieve great things here," she said.
Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans, Inc., is a nonprofit educational organization honoring the achievements of outstanding individuals and encouraging youth to pursue their dreams through higher education. Albarracin was one of the 200 students from across the nation awarded one of the scholarships.
The scholarships recognize "remarkable students who are overcoming great personal adversity" and show an unwavering commitment to pursuing their dreams through higher education.
Scholars come from households with an average annual income of $22,783 where students maintain an average GPA of 3.71. Albarracin's scholarship is the Tessler Family Specialized Scholarship, which awards two students from the Whitney Museum Youth Insights internship program.
Albarracin's passion for advocacy work began as a child in Colombia, campaigning with her grandmother who was a leader and activist in her community. "She used to take me to protests when I was little and I loved it." She said her grandmother was one of her biggest role models, along with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
"I have a desire to empower women. I grew up in a very sexist country and I was taught to be quiet if a man was talking," Albarracin said. "I just want to help women to find their voice. I don't want to become a politician -- I want to be an advocate."
Currently, Albarracin is balancing schoolwork, keeping up with in-person and online classes as the pandemic continues to impact education at every level and helping to raise her younger brother. And next week, she has her final exam.
Albarracin said she was most looking forward to graduating and getting her Master's degree in political science. "I really want to make my mom proud."