Evelin Zalaya (4th Quarter, 2009)

My name is Evelin Zelaya and I am a 21-year-old student at Woodland Community College. I was born in El Salvador and came to the United States when I was seven. It has been a blessing for me to live here and to receive the education that I have. I’m currently investigating career opportunities in a few fields. I’ve always enjoyed doing volunteer work in the community and see the medical field a strong option for me.  The medical field would enable me to continue giving to and helping others. It’s a challenging and exciting time in my life as I see the possibilities ahead.  Beyond my school obligations I love being in nature, hiking, phases of the moon, playing soccer, shooting hoops, and cooking with friends.

A Portion of Evelin’s Winning Essay:

My name is Evelin Zelaya and I was born and raised in El Salvador until age two by my parents, then by my grandparents until age seven, and separated from my two older sisters at age five. I would occasionally visit my middle sister, Viky and my older sister, Karina I did not see until I was seven. I emigrated to the U.S. at age seven and was reunited with my parents for the first time on mother’s day, 1996.


The journey to the U.S. was a very difficult one that took over three months of sacrifice. Being reunited with my parents after several years was bizarre because in my mind, they were just strangers; my real parents in my mind were my grandparents. I later came to my senses and realized that it was one of the greatest feelings to be reunited with them again. As I grew older, I began to realize that my life was not like everyone else’s. First of all, I faced the difficulty of adapting to a new language and culture, learned to beware of my surroundings due to my illegal status, and I was expected to meet my parent’s expectations in terms of school and receiving good grades.

Despite my struggles in trying to learn English, I decided to challenge myself by asking my high school counselor if I could sign up for advanced placement courses. He gave me permission but due to my difficulty during class, my history teacher told me that perhaps it was best if I enrolled in a regular class. I insisted that I would improve my grades and refused to take no for an answer. My determination to not only pass the class but excel in it resulted in great success.

I took a minimum of three AP courses and was able to graduate with honors. Thanks to those AP courses, I learned what would be expected of me in college. During my high school career, I lacked the social life of high school students, due to the strict measures my parents took while raising me. Outside academe, I was and continue to be involved with my community, since it is a very important part of my life. Due to my parent’s strict measures, it was difficult to participate in sports and clubs. However, I did not allow their rules to impede me from taking part in sports and clubs, and thanks to the support of my uncle and my sisters, I was able to participate in both.

I took part in the Hollywood High School girl’s basketball team for four years. Although, I had never played basketball, I took on the challenge to learn the sport and gave my best efforts. Through this experience I learned about dedication, hard work and team work. I also learned about being respectful and understanding of situations and of others even when their actions were difficult or hurtful to me. Despite certain obstacles during my four years of playing, I learned a lot. I was also awarded the Scholar Athlete trophy my senior year, a result of maintaining a 3.5 or above G.P.A.

while still taking part in a sports team. I also took part in Key Club International, a club designed to help the community. We did car washes, served food to the homeless, served dinner for the Kiwanis reception, made holiday hospital visits to distribute holiday cards, and fundraised for our club. I had the opportunity to become an officer in the club, secretary. This was a responsibility that allowed me to demonstrate my organizational skills along with my eagerness to become more engaged with my community. As a result of my hard work, I was awarded they Key Club International Scholarship to aid me with my college education. My desire and efforts to be a good student motivated me to do everything I could to increase my opportunity for success.

I became a part of the Upward Bound program at Los Angeles City College during my sophomore year in high school, and learned a lot about the college life, college applications, deadlines and colleges, while also having the opportunity to take Saturday and summer school college classes at Los Angeles City College. I’ve also participated in Aids Walk Los Angeles, for several years. An experience that is unforgettable and my hopes are that by being a part of it and raising awareness and funds to find a cure, we will develop a cure and treat people who are infected.
My junior year of high school, I applied to several UC’s and Cal States, my number one choice was UC Davis for many reasons. I became intrigued by the setting and the vibe of the campus, nature is one of my interests and I found the city of Davis to be peaceful and I could see myself living there. My sisters were attending that school as well, and since we became closer after being reunited, it would be a great opportunity to bond and make up lost time.

I was accepted to many schools but was denied admission to UC Davis, I was devastated. However, my past experience with the basketball team showed me to always try my best and to never give up with difficult challenges. I am not someone who would give up and walk away without a second effort. Having learned that, my only choice was to appeal my admission to UC Davis.

In 2007, I was accepted to the University of California Davis. I decided to attend that school for many reasons, it was my first choice and I worked very hard to obtain admission. My two older sisters were students there and it would ease the burden of looking for affordable housing. My sisters and I are very close and it would also benefit my parents by easing burdens such as staying in touch, occasional visits, and traveling home during breaks and holidays. The overall benefit to my parents of having all three daughters at one school was immeasurable based on my parent’s income status.

Seven years ago my mother was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. The news was devastating and I was very scared of losing her. Fortunately she had surgery then, and afterwards continued a treatment that has kept her health stable. My father, on the other hand has diabetes, a disease that slowly has been taking a toll on him, sending him to the hospital various times. Over the past six months, diabetes has caused my father complete loss of his vision twice. I am sad to see how he is getting worse day by day. My biggest fear that my father will no longer be able to work and support our family has turned into reality. With the high cost of medications, my parents can hardly afford to help me and my sisters go to college.

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