After overcoming challenges, two scholars from Union High School are looking forward to starting a new journey after graduation.
Lorena Ortega and Narivi Roblero-Escalante were recently honored for earning the Golden Door Scholarship. They are awarded to DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) students with high academic achievements and gives them an opportunity to go to college on a full academic scholarship. Roblero-Escalante and Ortega plan to attend the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the fall.
“I feel very honored and grateful,” Ortega said.
Ortega and Roblero-Escalante faced a lot of competition in the Golden Door process, but they were successful in the end. She expressed how a lot of the applicants came from schools with more resources and programs. Some of the steps included essay writing, face-to-face interviews, and completing a video to tell their stories.
“I feel proud and a little bit shocked too,” Roblero-Escalante said. “There was a lot of people.”
During her time at UHS, Ortega participated in Junior ROTC and currently serves as the Chief of Staff and Major for the organization.
“I really enjoyed that and it really built my confidence,” Ortega said about Junior ROTC.
She’s also a member of Beta Club and is the vice president of the Key Club. Outside of school, she volunteers as an interpreter for Union Elementary and Union Intermediate during parent-teacher conferences.
Her decision to attend UNC was based on a visit to the campus in the summer for Project Uplift,a program that gives rising high school seniors a chance to experience life on campus and learn about the university.
“I just loved it,” Ortega said about her future college. “The campus is so beautiful and there’s so much diversity. I was there for three days and there was a lot of activities. We got to meet some of the staff and they talked to us about the program and I just fell in love.”
When it comes to looking ahead, Ortega knows for sure that her future involves helping peopleovercome challenges she faced.
“Even if they are undocumented and if they have many obstacles, they can do it,” she said. “It’s possible.”
Ortega came to America from Mexico with her family when she was 6 and Roblero-Escalante arrived from Guatemala when she was 6-months-old. For them, one of the biggest barriers was learning English. They both grew up in Spanish speaking families and learned by reading a lot of books.
“We were the oldest and we didn’t have any siblings to help us and we had to do everything on our own,” Ortega said about learning a new language.
It was the foundation to being successful in school, which lead to the huge honor. About 1,000 applied for Golden Door and only a few were selected. Along the way, the UHS students received a lot of support from individuals such as Jason Rinka, an Advanced Placement English teacher. He helped them through the process and getting accepted to UNC.
Roblero-Escalante is looking forward to attending UNC as well. At UHS, Roblero-Escalante participated in the Beta Club, Key Club and Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA).
“So many people don’t expect an undocumented student to go to such a high profile college,” Roblero-Escalante said. “To say that I got admitted to that school is a very huge accomplishment.”
In the future, Roblero-Escalante would like to become a physical therapist. She was inspired to become one after her neighbor was paralyzed from a stroke.
“I think half of her body was paralyzed and I would go to her house after school and be with her,” Roblero-Escalante said. “The physical therapist would come in. I watched as she helped her and I got more into it.”
Bambi Dove, UHS scholarship coordinator, said the school is quite proud of them for being chosen for the opportunity that comes with a full-ride scholarship.
“A lot of people don’t have that opportunity,” Dove said. “So we are quite pleased that they put forth the effort and the hard work to complete that application and be selected as a Golden Door Scholar.”
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.