Hard work, leadership result in success, gratitude
When Cinthia Valderrama saw a hungry man come into La Perla, the restaurant where she worked while attending Summit High School, she didn’t turn him away. Seeing that the man had only enough money to buy one taco, she reached into her own pocket and paid for his meal.
“I am hopeful that one day my family will also be able to rise from our current desperate situation through the kindness of a stranger,” she said.
It’s not just the kindness of a stranger, but Valderrama’s hard work providing for her family and attending school that has enabled her to earn an Alpine Bank Latino/Hispanic Scholarship so she can attend Colorado Mountain College in Breckenridge to study business. The bank has been awarding scholarships to qualified students in need since the program began in 1996. Since its inception, the program has awarded more than 170 scholarships.
To be considered for these specialized scholastic awards, students must be of Latino/Hispanic descent, classify as an in-district student, have at least a 2.5 GPA and demonstrate financial need, among other criteria. Each scholarship – which equals $2,200 a year – helps to cover the cost of tuition, fees and books for two years.
First generation to earn college degree
Most high school seniors don’t have to work to help their families survive. But when Valderrama’s father was deported to Mexico in 2011, she suddenly had to contribute to her family’s income.
“[I had to] bring home a significant part of the funds needed to keep food on our table,” she said. “Never would I have expected to face the responsibility of bringing home enough money to replace my father’s lost wages while mending my own heart at his situation.”
Valderrama was just a small girl when she and her family moved to Colorado from Nayarit, Mexico. Even though she will be the first in her family to attend college, it was always a goal. According to Molly Griffith, pre-collegiate coordinator for the Summit School District, who’s known Valderrama since she was in eighth grade, Valderrama has always demonstrated a determination to further her education.
“During her high school career, I have watched Cinthia grow and mature into a motivated young woman,” Griffith said. “She possesses the skills and desire to make her post-secondary goals a reality.”
Shawna Lane agrees. She is the Mountain Mentors teen program coordinator for Summit County, and has witnessed Valderrama’s leadership abilities firsthand on the soccer field as a team member and in other extracurricular activities.
“It was clear that she was a leader on the team and that others looked to Cinthia for inspiration,” said Lane. “Cinthia is determined to be a first-generation collegiate student. I have no doubt that Cinthia would have a positive impact on the collegiate community that she chooses.”
For Valderrama, the Alpine Bank scholarship is a way for her to give back.
“Colorado has offered me a life filled with great beauty and enormous opportunity,” she said.