Elizabeth Esteban was awarded a full scholarship to Harvard – which is consistently ranked among the top five universities in the world – despite initially believing she wouldn’t stand a chance.
Harvard’s acceptance rate is 4.7 per cent, while only 12.7 per cent of the student population is Hispanic or Latino.
The student, who lives in a mobile home in the desert settlement of Mecca, southern California, has battled constant internet issues, making it almost impossible to learn online during the Covid lockdown.
In addition, she almost lost her chance at Harvard altogether when her WiFi cut out during her interview for a place at the prestigious institution, NBC Palm Springs reports.
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“Most of the time my screen was a circle just trying to reconnect,” she explained.
Despite the connectivity problems and her lack of the same resources enjoyed by other applicants, she told Univision Los Angeles: “I thought, I’ve got to keep fighting, and if the pandemic is an obstacle, it’s one I’ve got to overcome.”
Elizabeth’s parents, who are both farm labourers, are among hundreds of members of the Purepecha tribe who migrated from Michoacán, Mexico, to the Coachella Valley in search of a better life.
Her mother Cecilia, whose first language is the Purepecha dialect, said she felt immensely proud that her daughter’s dreams had come true.
“Waking up early every morning and working hard in the fields is worth it,” she told NBC.
“Now it’s even more worth it, because my daughter has accomplished what she has dreamt about. I am so proud”.
Elizabeth said that she felt particularly happy and grateful because “no one in this community has ever achieved something like this.”
“No one here thinks that something like this could ever happen to anyone on this side of the valley.”
She explained: “I’m part of an indigenous group that feels that women should stay at home and be the stereotypical stay at home mother, later on in the future. I just wanted to break those barriers.”
The teen is now preparing for her studies in political sciences and, one day, hopes to become a congresswoman for her region.
Well, Elizabeth, we wish you luck. You’re an example to us all.