"It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view."
These are the words of Archbishop of San Salvador, Oscar Romero. He was the voice of the marginalized community of El Salvador, preaching for love and equality within the country. His work was honest, compassionate and inspiring, but to his opponents, it was radical and criminal. On March 24, 1980, Romero was celebrating mass at a hospital called La Divina Providencia (The Divine Providence). As he raised the chalice during the blessing of the Eucharist, a shot rang out. The bullet pierced through the chapel and struck Romero, who fell to the ground. A man who stood for being committed to doing justice, basic human rights for all, and filled with love, was killed by hate.
In 1992, a group of students, faculty and administrators gathered to create the Archbishop Oscar Romero Scholarship, a scholarship given to a junior at Boston College who has shown exceptional commitment to the Latino community and academic excellence. On March 29, 2014, I, along with two other students—Jessica Franco and Rosemary Concepcion—were the finalists for the scholarship.
It was odd being a finalist. To be honest, I had considered not applying. There was a feeling I was not going to be a strong applicant and I believed other people were more deserving of such an honor. But after meeting with several people, I decided to take the chance. As I think back to why I did not want to apply, I was not abiding by the opening sentence of this piece. I was not stepping back and taking a long view. My focus was on everything else going on in my life, but the focus of the scholarship was solely on me.
For the scholarship, applicants had to first submit a preliminary application containing a resume and list of activities since arriving to BC. While I initially thought I was not involved in much at BC, I noticed my list quickly grow as I reflected more closely. I saw that I was EXTREMELY invested in what BC offers, as well as off-campus commitments. Upon completion of the list, I thought to myself, ‘Hmm, maybe I do have a chance.’
Then, the e-mail came. It was an e-mail congratulating me on moving into the next round and asking for an essay. An essay? On top of all the other essays I have to write? It seemed like a daunting task to add onto the important assignments and activities I had to take care of. But it’s just like the opening sentence: I wasn’t taking a step back. So I took a step back and in my essay, I focused on the one thing that I find to be powerful: writing. After I submitted the essay, I started to notice the importance of my commitment to The Gavel. We are a voice at BC, a progressive voice, that speaks volumes to the campus. After the essay, I thought, ‘Wow, this is so different than anything I’ve applied for.' But the best was yet to come.
The interview came and while butterflies flew throughout my stomach, it was an opportunity for me to display who I was behind the words the committee had read up that point. It was the best way for administrators and faculty of BC to fully understand the work I do as a student. I remember walking out of the interview relieved, but overjoyed. I was so happy because I was able to share my story, my work and my commitment to the Latino community on campus with both people I have met and have never met before. It did not matter if I was a finalist because the process had already been more than I expected.
After the interview, I found out that I was one of three finalists. This past Saturday night, the three finalists were invited to a ceremony where the scholarship winner was chosen. As I’ve stated to my friends and family, it was the best night of my life. Sure, it was nerve-wracking to sit for two and a half hours waiting for the results, but the night was so personal. It was a night of recognition for hard work and commitment, and being surrounded by friends and family made it that much more special and emotional.
This is the beauty of scholarships at BC and if you have reservations, I have one word for you: don’t.
The scholarships at BC such as Romero, the Martin Luther King Jr., and Benigno & Corazon Aquino Scholarships are in place to allow BC students who have been involved with these respective communities an opportunity to reflect on their work. Yes, it is a award and it as an accolade, but the greater reward is the experience of reflection.
We as students talk about retreats as the best thing on campus and while you will not see me complaining about retreats, this scholarship process was like a retreat in of itself. There was reflection. There was affirmation. There was gratitude. Don’t downplay your resume, but rather appreciate everything you've accomplished. The essay is an opportunity to express yourself, like any job application. The interview is your opportunity to speak in a comfortable forum that only seems daunting, but isn’t.
Do you see the common variable? It is all about YOU. So I encourage the underclassmen at BC, and future BC students, to apply to these scholarships. It was an amazing process that I would do again in a heartbeat.
Congratulations to Jessica on being this year’s recipient of the Archbishop Oscar Romero Scholarship, as well as Rosemary for being a finalist alongside myself. And thank you to the Romero committee and those who helped me to take a step back and take a long view.