“My primary motivation to pursue a higher education has been my parents,” says Genesis Velasco, “I see how much they have sacrificed and how hard they have worked to get to where they are now and to ensure a better life for my siblings and me.” She intends to build on their legacy by going to college and building a life that is financially secure, professionally productive, and helps advance the success of Latinos in the United States.
Completing her education is a top priority, not least because she hopes one day to be a physician with a practice that helps Latinos do better in the health care system. But as a first-generation student, she has found the college application process to be challenging, and the cost, daunting. She is committed to moving forward, regardless, and she’s not afraid to learn by trial and error, when there’s no other way. Because this approach has served her well, thus far, she’s encouraging her two younger brothers, and other students, to follow suit.
Currently a senior at Morrow High School, Genesis is an active student leader. She is president of HOSA: Future Health Professionals, vice president of the Latino Student Union, and secretary of her school’s chapter of the National Honor Society. In addition, she is a member of the National Beta Club and the school’s book and science clubs. For three years, she has organized and coordinated a blood drive at her school and has served on the Vision Board for the construction of a new school campus.
She also volunteers in the broader community, participating in numerous community service projects, including Hispanic Heritage Nights and other extracurricular events at local middle and elementary schools. In addition, she serves as vice-president and administrative assistant of the Walking in Authority Teen Council, a youth organization which seeks to promote social change through civic engagement.
After success at the school, county, and regional events, Genesis qualified at the state level for National History Day and was a state finalist at the Social Studies Fair. She has earned numerous awards for academic excellence, which include a Governor's Honors Program Semi-Finalist in Mandarin, AP Scholar Award, and University of Georgia Merit Award. In recognition of her leadership skills, she also received the Clayton County Youth Leadership Award.
She attended HSF’s College Camp, which helps prepare students and their parents for college and the application process. She notes that the sessions her mother was able to attend in Spanish, and the entire experience for both mother and daughter, were invaluable. “It gave both of us more hope regarding my future and made college seem more realistic than it was in the past,” Genesis said. “It also served as a means of allowing my mother to be more active and engaged in my education.”
Last June, Genesis was one of 200 students selected to attend HSF’s 2019 Youth Leadership Institute at The University of Chicago, a four-day program that gives outstanding Latino rising high school seniors the practical tools they need to set a course for success in college and career and the experience of living on a college campus. It’s also an opportunity for students to begin developing a network of peers and mentors, something she says “creates a sense of belonging” and offers the opportunity to be in contact and collaborate with likeminded individuals who also understand “what it means to be a Hispanic individual in American society.”
She encourages students who come from backgrounds similar to hers, saying, “Your education is what you choose to make of it…. All it takes is dedication and the drive to succeed.”