Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Cuyamaca College students take top honors at Cesar Chavez scholarship competition

Iveth Estrada Reyes
Cuyamaca College student Iveth Estrada Reyes was honored at the March 26 Cesar E. Chavez Community Breakfast in Downtown San Diego with the top prize in a community college essay competition – a $1,000 scholarship and a new laptop computer. 

“It was an awesome experience,” said Estrada, a sociology major who has been accepted to several of the University of California and California State University campuses she’s applied to for this fall. “I’ve never entered anything like this in the past, but it’s been very motivating and I’m going to have to pursue similar opportunities in the future.”

Fellow Cuyamaca College student Likaa Mohamad took Honorable Mention in the essay competition; Estrada and Mohamad were the only two community college students who were honored.
Several hundred people attended the awards presentation at the Westin San Diego. Those applying for the Chavez Scholars Community Scholarship had to write a 600- to- 700-word essay focusing on the theme of “standing up with courage and boldness for a better tomorrow” and describing a time “when you or someone around you stood up for a cause that you felt would build a better tomorrow.”

Estrada heard about the contest on March 12. The deadline to submit her entry was March 14.

“I told myself, ‘why not?’” said Estrada, who aspires to become a clinical psychologist. “It was worth a try. I didn’t have anything to lose. But I was pretty surprised that I won.”

Her essay detailed how her exposure to social and institutional injustices brought her out of her shell and prompted her to become more engaged in standing up for immigrants. “I realized that I was not alone in my struggles and experiences as an undocumented immigrant, and I knew that I had to do more for myself, my family, and my community,” she wrote.

Estrada is an active advocate for immigrant rights and educational equity on campus, and she is the co-founder of Cuyamaca’s United Dreamers student organization that serves as a support group for undocumented students and allies (Estrada’s mother brought her to the United States without proper documentation when Estrada was a baby).

Mohamad, a refugee from Iraq, is a straight-A student on track to graduate this spring and who has an eye on transferring to San Diego State University. When not on campus, she spends much of her time helping immigrants in her El Cajon neighborhood navigate their new life in America.