Full Scholarship Alert! An Ánimo Watts Warrior Becomes a USC Trojan


By Jacqueline Martinez, senior at Ánimo Watts College Preparatory Academy

I will never forget the day the acceptance package came. In that moment, I was overcome with relief, empowerment, and tremendous gratitude just knowing all those difficult days and long nights were not in vain. I grew up working with my parents, cleaning a movie theater from 1:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. every weekend and summer vacation since I was 11.

The most profound and important education I have received has ironically not been in the classroom, but has come from pushing myself through countless nights of heavy eyes, midnight coffee runs, and backaches. As cheesy as it may be, my acceptance package reminded me of a quote from a Spiderman movie: “With great power comes great responsibility.”

As a low income, first generation college student, I know the struggle, too well. Fortunately I was awarded the Mork Family Scholarship, a full tuition scholarship and living stipend. The scholarship is awarded to 10 students each year, and recipients are selected by University of Southern California (USC) faculty and staff from an extremely competitive international pool and interview panel. Being a recipient of such a scholarship means that I have much more of a responsibility to leave a lasting impact on the USC campus and the world.

Preparing an Ánimo Watts Warrior

I'm grateful for my high school. Not only has Ánimo Watts College Preparatory Academy  prepared me for the rigor of college, but it also taught me to take advantage of future learning opportunities of all kinds. Given its size, I also witnessed several staff rise up to take on other roles on campus when the need arose. It’s been this leadership model that pushed me to initiate several programs and helped me strengthen my leadership skills. For example, I initiated a partnership program between our school and the nearby middle school, Ánimo Mae Jemison Charter Middle School, where my peers would tutor and mentor students. This initiative led me to starting a club where I teach middle school students about financial literacy and increase their exposure to college options.

At Ánimo Watts I grasped the importance of mentorships through my English teacher Ms. Medina. I have sought her advice during difficult times before, during and after school. Whether it's been me updating her on my current joys in life, seeking out her advice on the pursuit of my career and personal goals, or simply talking about movies like La La Land, she’s been there for me. I’ve certainly learned many things from her, but one of the most resonant is that in order to be a role model, one does not have to be perfect. In embracing one’s humanity, you help others see the importance of self care and ensuring you don’t lose yourself in the process. To be a role model, one must exhibit care, dedication, and high expectations. These things combined will push them to fulfill their potential and be their best self. In doing so, one can help those in the most vulnerable and difficult of circumstances rise above.

Getting accepted to a top tier institution like USC means that I can’t possibly leave this earth saying “see you in the next life” without having done something to close the opportunity gap and knowledge gap that hindered my peers and me on our path to college. I’m majoring in non-governmental organization and social change, through this I hope to establish a nonprofit that provides college-preparatory services to low-income, first-generation youth.

Above all, my acceptance to USC and being a Mork Family Scholarship recipient has made me even more thankful for the times mom had to wear three layers of clothing to work all through the night in a waffle factory, and when my dad had to drive over an hour away to Santa Clarita to work as a dishwasher 12 hours a day. All the blood, sweat, and tears my parents shed for my siblings and me has further driven me to do the best I can with the resources at hand, as limited as they may be, and to change the cycle not just for myself, but for those around me. This moment is only the beginning of fulfilling my destiny.

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