Chelsea Karina Medina shares that one thought in particular motivates her to pursue a higher education. “No matter where life takes me,” she says, “[education] is the one thing that no one can take away from me.” She also believes that education is not just valuable in itself, but that it can be transformative, becoming “part of your identity.”
Currently a sophomore, studying Structural Engineering at the University of Southern California (USC), she is already looking ahead, and plans to earn a master’s degree after completing her bachelor’s. She adds that her family’s steadfast support has been crucial in propelling her forward, from one goal to the next. “My family has sacrificed a lot, in order to give me this chance to pursue a higher education,” she says.
She does worry about the cost of graduate studies, and whether that will stand in her way. And despite being highly motivated, she has had to wrestle with some personal challenges, as well. One is the isolation she feels, living so far from her home in Miami, Florida. Also, she explains, being the first in her family to attend a university is its own obstacle. It has meant “not having someone in [her] family who has been through these experiences, to give academic or social advice.”
HSF has helped to bridge that gap. As an HSF Scholar, Chelsea has been a participant and volunteer at HSF’s Youth Leadership Institute (YLI) and National Leadership Conference (NLC). YLI is a four-day, overnight, college empowerment program for Latino, rising high school seniors; it is designed to give young leaders the practical tools they need to successfully apply to top universities, have full access to scholarship and financial aid opportunities, and set a course for academic and career success. NLC is a four-day conference that provides an inside track to academic and professional excellence to top HSF Scholars, through a combination of mentoring, leadership development, professional insights, career guidance, and internship and job opportunities.
Each time she has participated in an HSF program or conference, she says, “I have felt more and more inspired…. I have definitely felt the sense of community and of belonging to one large familia that supports you.” She adds that the fellow HSF Scholars she has met along the way, have not only become close friends, but have also inspired her to grow as a person, and taught her the importance of giving back to the community.
In addition to being recognized as an HSF Scholar, Chelsea has been awarded The Gates Scholarship, the Kiwanis Scholarship, and the Comcast Leaders and Achievers Scholarship. She was also an AP Scholar with honors.
Today, at USC, she devotes her non-classroom time to the USC Questbridge Chapter, SC Underwater, the Themed Entertainment Association, and the USC chapter of Engineers Without Borders, which implements projects that improve the infrastructure of communities.
Chelsea encourages students who are thinking about college to seek out a mentor knowledgeable in the college admissions process, and above all, to, “never give up hope…as anything is possible.”