Born and raised in San Antonio, Texas, Susana is a middle child with two brothers. Her parents are from Hebronville, Texas, and Mexico City, Mexico. Her father has a JD and is an attorney. Her mother, who holds a bachelor’s degree, is a vice president of human resources.
She attributes her drive for a higher education to her older brother, an Ivy League graduate with a JD. “My older brother was the kid that should have ended up as a stereotype or a statistic. He was born to two poor Mexican-American teenagers from a small town in the borderlands of South Texas. Against all the odds, however, he became incredibly successful and ended up attending Yale University, an opportunity more or less unheard of for kids like him. He has given me all the tools I need and all the necessary inspiration to reach my potential and strive for greatness.”
Nevertheless, her journey has come with challenges. One was growing up in a suburb without much diversity, where she experienced prejudice. But she adds that her toughest hurdle was a traumatic event that occurred in her sophomore year, which saw her spiraling into what she describes as a “state of mental disrepair.” Her grades dropped, and for a time, she gave up the idea of going to an elite university. But she says her motivation to succeed pulled her out of the slump.
Now a rising senior at Reagan High School, she reports that she is thriving. Her junior year activities include having served as event captain of the Speech Team and competing in acting and speech events at the local, regional, and national levels.
She has also been a research fellow at the Voelcker Biomedical Research Academy, an immersive biomedical program in collaboration with The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, in which she studied HIV and its progression to AIDS. She is now studying neural stem cell quiescence and its proliferation in response to aging, stress, and trauma, and hopes to become a physician.
Last July, she was one of 152 students selected to attend the Hispanic Scholarship Fund’s 2017 Youth Leadership Institute (YLI) at the University of Chicago. YLI is a four-day, overnight conference that gives outstanding Latino high school juniors the practical tools they need to set a course for success in college and career.
Susan is the recipient of the Harvard Book Prize and the National AP Scholar Award. Her speech and debate awards include National Speech & Debate Association Degree of Outstanding Distinction and National Qualifier for duo, as well as National Individual Events Tournament of Champions runner-up for dramatic interpretation and qualifier for duo, dramatic interpretation, humorous interpretation, and original oratory.
Her words of advice for students who are thinking about college: “Do not doubt your abilities or your potential to succeed. Your future is yours and yours only. Reach for it with both hands.”