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HSF Scholars

Gabriela Contreras

  • Gender: Female
  • Major: Public Relations and Marketing
  • University: University of Houston
  • Hometown: Houston
  • State: Texas

Ms. Contreras, an only child, was born in Bogota, Colombia. She immigrated to the US with her parents at an early age, and has lived in Houston, Texas, since then. Her mother, who works as an elementary school substitute teacher, is from Cali, Colombia, and her father, an educational diagnostician, is from Bogota. 

She says that being raised by two educators made her own education a top priority. But where and how that occurred came down to the family’s budget. A four-year college was simply out of the question. 

Determined to make the best of it, she entered a community college, where she completed an associate’s degree in Communications in just one year. That positioned her to apply for scholarships and complete a bachelor’s degree in less than four years. An HSF Scholarship helped her launch this strategy.

Today, the HSF Scholar attends the University of Houston, where she is majoring in Public Relations and Marketing – a field she was inspired to pursue when working as a tour guide at NASA’s Johnson Space Center.

She is active on campus as Vice President for the Association for Women in Communications, and as a writer for The Cougar, her campus newspaper. She has also been recognized as an Academic Excellence Scholar, an AP Scholar with Distinction, and made the Dean’s List. 

In September, Ms. Contreras was one of the top 150 Scholars invited to attend HSF’s first annual Career Symposium. The Career Symposium is a conference that introduces top HSF Scholars to current internship and full-time employment opportunities with HSF’s corporate partners.

She says that being surrounded by the accomplished and ambitious individuals she met there, was a great inspiration, adding, “I had always aspired to be successful, as we all do. But after attending the symposium, I realized that it’s not just about me. It’s also about the impact my achievements will have on the younger generations who need a role model.”

Her plan after college is to gain experience in her field for a few years before going back for an MBA in Marketing. She hopes the MBA will put her in the running to one day become a Marketing Communications Director or Chief Communications Officer for a company that focuses on renewable energy sources. 

Her advice to students thinking about attending college: “You don’t have to be a genius to be great. All it takes is vision and hard work to gain the skills and confidence you need to be successful.” She also offers a fresh take on the old axiom about the definition of luck: “Opportunity is a combination of preparation and luck,” she explains. “As long as you are prepared and willing to take risks, you will succeed in anything you want to do.”