Kenya Yniguez

California Polytechnic University, Class of 2017
SRI International, Medicinal Chemistry Research Associate
Woodside High School, Class of 2013

"A wise man once said: 'You cannot master the rest of your life today, so master each day, and you will be one step closer to accomplishing your dreams.' This was really my driving force in school. Starting off, I had no idea how I would pay for college, all of the work that would go into obtaining my education and starting a career, and the responsibility that would come with it all. Four years later, I am proud to call myself a college graduate."

Upon being accepted to my university, I had a plan for my first year, and first year only. The idea of getting through four years of college was beyond me, but I had a starting plan and a whole lot of drive. POE was really my saving grace. I remember feeling a sense of relief in knowing that there was a group of people who believed in me, and my ability to succeed in college. I was awarded an outstanding mentor who cared for my success, but more importantly, cared for me as a person. She helped me create a game plan for every school year, she motivated me, and she was there to see me though every quarter and the new challenges and opportunities each presented. It is largely because of my mentor and the POE family that I was able to get through the last 4 years of school.

            Not only did POE offer me amazing mentorship, it granted me the financial stability I needed to succeed. Being granted a scholarship allowed me to devote more time focusing on obtaining my degree and achieving my dreams than how I was going to pay my way through college. My family always struggled to make ends meet, but they tried to help in every way that they could. My parents, being immigrants, came to this country in pursuit of the American Dream but while they had to spend their lives working to make ends meet, that dream has slipped through their fingers. My parents have been limited in what they could give me, but they have granted me the desire to learn and to help those less fortunate; that is the gift that I value the most. As my parents grow weaker and I grow wiser, I hope to someday be able to provide for them as they have done for me. I hope that they can live the American Dream through me and that my actions inspire my younger brother and those around me. POE has helped bring me closer to fulfilling these aspirations, and for that I am thankful.

            Today I am proud to call myself a first generation college graduate. And while I am proud of where I am today, I know that my academic journey is not over. I hope to continue on to a PhD program in the near future, and in that way create a new dream for myself. When I reflect on my journey thus far, I am humbled by all of who have supported me along the way. On the one hand, POE provided the mentorship and the financial stability for me to succeed in college, but in the larger scope of things, POE gave me the vote of confidence to follow my dream and continue to set new ones. I am forever grateful for the doors that POE has opened for me, for I would not be where I am today without their support.

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