Mariana Guzman was born and raised in El Paso, Texas, along with her older brother. She says that she recognized early on in life, that she would have to work hard to overcome certain obstacles, and achieve her goal of being able to give back to her community. Growing up in a border town, she saw how a lack of resources and access to education had an impact on those around her, and she sometimes felt helpless. But, she says, she was “lucky,” because from a young age, her parents were supportive of her pursuit of a higher education, and she is aware of the opportunities that this path has created for her.
As she progressed through her studies, her parents spoke little English, and Mariana recalls that she was often frustrated in her own attempts to master the language. However, her mother continued to remind her that she could do anything she dreamed of. “I took her hope,” Mariana says, “and started teaching myself.” Although there are still times where she feels unsure in her skills, she says she sees this as an experience that has made her stronger, teaching her what it means to work hard and overcome difficulties.
Now a senior at Americas High School, she is an honor roll student and active participant in student life. She has been an avid runner since her freshman year, something she says has taught her discipline both on and off the field. The training and dedication have paid off—she holds the school record for female track and field in the 1600 meters and 3200 meters, and she has been a regional qualifier in both cross country and track and field.
In addition to running, she is passionate about giving back to her school and community. Through different school-based organizations such as Youth for Christ, Student Ambassadors, and the National Honor Society, she has helped organize toy and food drives, serve food at community-wide Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, and collect donations.
She also holds several leadership positions, such as Hispanic Honor Society President, Student Body Energy and Environment Officer, National Honor Society Community Service Officer, Student Ambassadors Officer, and Philosophy Club President.
In July, Mariana was one of 200 top students who were invited to attend the Hispanic Scholarship Fund’s 2019 Youth Leadership Institute (YLI) at the University of Southern California. YLI is a four-day, overnight program that gives outstanding Latino rising high school seniors the practical tools they need to set a course for success in college and career. She says that being part of HSF is empowering, because it celebrates the beauty of the Hispanic community and equips students, enabling them to empower, teach, and strengthen others.
She plans to study business as an undergraduate, embark on her career, and utilize her success to give back to communities like her own, especially to provide children with the opportunity of a “meaningful education.”
She encourages others to believe that dreams are achievable and that education is the key. She says to ask lots of questions, do lots of research, and remember that “opportunities are always out there, and they are there for you.”