In the fields of Delano, where dreams sprout from the soil, the stories of Mayra Lara, Adrian Balsa, and Julissa Elizondo unfold as stories of resilience and determination. These individuals showcase a spirit of aspiration that beats preconceived boundaries.
Mayra Lara’s journey from Delano to UCLA and beyond paints a picture of ambition overcoming limitations.
“Coming into UCLA, I didn’t know anyone else from my high school that’d gone there for engineering, so I didn’t really have a benchmark or knew how well I could expect myself to do initially,” Lara shared.
Lara’s journey took a remarkable turn when she became a Gates Scholar, eliminating financial constraints and opening doors to a world of possibilities.
“UCLA topped that list for me with my designation as a Regents Scholar and with being placed in the CEED program, which was made for minority students in engineering, that all ultimately helped me in various ways throughout my undergrad,” Lara stated. She knew she had to leave home if she wanted to major in civil engineering, as CSUB didn’t offer that major.
Navigating the demands of leaving home for college, Lara realized the disparity in resources but embraced the challenge with the unwavering support of her family.
“I knew I’d have to try a lot harder to be at par with the rest of my peers, and despite the stress and challenges that came with it, I have a lot to thank my family for continuing to encourage and support me all throughout my academic years,” said Lara.
Speaking about her success, Lara emphasized, “I’m really proud of all I achieved during my undergrad; it meant a lot knowing that even though I didn’t come from a privileged background, I was still capable of achieving the same amount of success.”
Lara’s advice to younger individuals aspiring to chase their dreams resonates deeply:
“Don’t let yourself be a limiting factor in your own story. There are only so many outward things you can control, but the least you can do for yourself is to not allow your own attitude or self-perception be the reason why you don’t pursue your dreams.”
She underscores that where she came from wasn’t a limiting factor but provided her with a unique outlook on life throughout her college career. Lara’s journey embodies the essence of resilience and determination, serving as an inspiration for others in Delano and beyond.
Adrian Balsa, a recent graduate from UCSD with a degree in business economics, added his voice to the narrative.
Balsa’s journey involved a transfer from CSUB to UCSD after two years, showcasing the determination to pursue opportunities beyond the initial path. When asked about advice for younger individuals aspiring to chase their dreams, he shared, “When your goals start to get scary and you try to discourage yourself, that’s when you know that you’re setting big goals for yourself, ambitious goals are not meant to be comfortable; they should be daunting, almost scary,” said Balsa.
Balsa’s insight encourages taking that initial step forward, no matter how intimidating it may seem.
“It is necessary in order to start chasing your goals in life because if you don’t, your goals will just stay dreams,” Balsa claimed.
Julissa Elizondo, a recent graduate from UC Davis with a degree in Human Development and a Public Health minor also shared her experiences.
“It means the world to me to have been very fortunate to leave Delano and pursue the dreams I have had for myself for so long,” Elizondo stated.
Elizondo’s journey emphasizes the challenge of recognizing opportunities in a small town.
“I think it’s hard to see what opportunities are truly out there when you are from a small town, but the overwhelming support I had to continue to pursue and achieve my successes has been amazing,” stated Elizondo. “I always knew I had a curious mind when it came to new experiences or to pursue a lifestyle or academic journey that may be out of my comfort zone. Being able to pursue a career I was passionate about was something I wanted to do for myself and my family.”
Elizondo’s journey also carries the weight of inspiring her younger siblings.
“I also wanted to show my younger siblings as well that anything can be achieved if you put your mind to it,” she said.
Reflecting on what contributed most to being admitted to her top choice graduate school, Elizondo credits the opportunities and mentors she had throughout her undergraduate journey.
“Most notable would be the Maternal Child Health Careers/Research Initiatives for Student Enhancement-Undergraduate Program (MCHC/RISE-UP) program I did that allowed me to conduct and present research at the CDC in Atlanta, Georgia. My mentors in this program provided me with the utmost guidance in understanding public health research and support in graduate school applications,” recalled Elizondo.
Together, Lara, Balsa, and Elizondo’s stories create a narrative of dreams transcending the borders of Delano. Their journeys inspire younger generations to overcome self-doubt, embrace the uncertainty of ambitious goals, and take that first courageous step toward realizing their aspirations.