Education All Stars: Latina’s success story shines at Stanford

VOXXI is dedicated to recognizing those working in the field of education for making a difference and those students setting the example for our future generation. Gabriela…
Education All Stars: Latina’s success story shines at Stanford

Gabriela Lomeli on the academic path to Stanford University. (Credit: John Benson)

VOXXI is dedicated to recognizing those working in the field of education for making a difference and those students setting the example for our future generation.

Gabriela Lomeli realized she wanted to attend Stanford University early on in life. That was quite a dream for a Palmdale, Calif. girl – daughter of two Mexican immigrant parents – who a handful of years earlier didn’t speak any English.

No matter how elusive attending the Pac-12 college would seem, Lomeli promised herself that’s where she would be attaining a higher education.

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“We had a field trip to Stanford in the 6th grade, and I absolutely fell in love with the campus,” Lomeli tells VOXXI. “It was the first school I saw. Before that, I didn’t have a clear idea of what college was. I didn’t know much. I told myself I would go there.

“I’m sure a lot of other students told themselves that day, ‘Yeah, I want to come here,’ but I really did follow through. That’s where I wanted to go.”

Perhaps someone could look at Lomeli’s life and say there was a certain naïveté or ignorance-is-bliss in aspiring to attend one of the most prestigious colleges in America. After all, the first generation American grew up underprivileged and was subject early on to the realities of being such.

The first of which was the Latina, who only spoke Spanish, found language difficulties attending elementary school. While attending bilingual classes helped, a twist of fate tested Lomeli’s resolve in seventh grade. At that point, she began to understand the game, and never looked back.

“In 7th grade, I was accidentally placed in English honors class,” Lomeli said. “I was kind of used to being a good student so I put in a bunch of extra effort. I’d try to read a lot. Everything turned out well. I look at that as one of my turning points.”

The experience empowered Lomeli, who felt like she had been given a formula for success.

“Yeah, I just really love learning,” Lomeli said. “School – math and science – has always been my thing. It’s kind of strange sometimes. I don’t know that many girls anymore who want to go into science. My love of science is what drove me to do so well at school.”

That love of science and math also led the William J. Pete Knight High School student, who recently graduated, to help create and execute hands-on STEM activities for middle school students, as well as provide 10th grade tutoring in chemistry.

Still, Lomeli’s amazing academic success as a Latina led to even rarer air, where she often found herself being the only female in a STEM classroom. Once again her academic achievement led her to break ground.

She said, “It wasn’t uncommon for me to be the only girl in the room, but generally guys, they see I’m just as good so I was pretty confident.”

That confidence put Lomeli on the academic path to Stanford University but attending one of the top colleges in California isn’t cheap.

That’s why Lomeli was excited to hear she was recently named one of four Hispanic high school seniors to receive a $100,000 Ronald McDonald House Charities national scholarship.

Each year, the national winners are selected from thousands of applicants. The rigorous process includes a completed application, essay and interviews with a distinguished panel of judges representing academia, business, media, Ronald McDonald House Charities and McDonald’s.

“I’d like to think I’d have found a way to make attending Stanford happen, but it really makes all the difference now that I have the scholarship,” Lomeli said. “Now I can focus my full energy on school and explore my options. Space is one of the things I like, but I like so many other things, like chemistry and biology. I’m going to do them all and maybe combine them in some way.”

After feeling as though she had to overcome one gigantic hurdle after another, Lomeli is dealing with something new – suddenly there’s one less barrier in her future.

“It feels nice, and it’s kind of amazing,” Lomeli said. “I really gave me hope in humanity. I guess that there are so many people out there trying to help people like me that now I want to join forces. I’ve been helped, and I’m going to try to give back anyway I can.”

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