My name is Yailyn Lora-Romero. I am a Hendrick Scholarship Foundation scholar and social media coordinator for Hendrick. The following is a speech I wrote for a Hendrick event to shed some light on this phenomenal nonprofit.
“I would like you to imagine the color of shame. A lot of people would say shame is the bright red of blushing cheeks or the black bundle of negative emotions that promptly follow it. We each develop a reference point, a specific memory we go back to that first defined that feeling of shame. For me, the color of shame is the navy blue of plastic chairs in my preschool classroom as I have to sheepishly admit to the teacher that I can’t understand what she or any of my classmates are saying, that the words spilling from their mouths are foreign sounds that register no familiarity. More embarrassment still as I realize that she can’t decode my frantic whispers any better than I can hers. Shame is the color of deep navy blue as the tears cloud my vision and the day passes by in a blur of blue.
I am the eldest daughter of immigrant parents. My parents immigrated to the United States without speaking more than a few words of English. They got to work building a life, and brought me and my siblings up in a two-room apartment we shared with my aunt. As foreigners with no knowledge of the language and very little education, they worked physically demanding jobs that took their time, bodies and energy from us. For the first four years of my life, the only language I knew was the tired, soft Spanish my mother used to lull me to sleep. During my school years, this meant that any question I had about my homework was met with a tired “I don’t know sweetheart, I don’t understand it” or an “ask your teacher tomorrow.” My grades slipped further and further away from me.
The school system decided this wouldn’t do, and I was placed in English as a Second Language (ESL) classes in kindergarten. A bullying incident in first grade left me with two scars on my face and a determination to improve my English.
I spent the rest of my elementary school years pouring over books, taking home extra English homework, and molding myself into the perfect student. I spent every ounce of free time reading and writing, getting perfect scores on spelling tests and becoming the librarian’s favorite student. Several of my teachers asked me if I was considering a career in writing, but it wasn’t until my fifth-grade teacher asked for a copy of my first book that I took writing seriously.
As a first-generation college student, I wrote every college essay, every scholarship essay, filled out every form and called every office. I wrote my way into Midwestern State University and the University of North Texas. I put in the work and dedication and I wrote myself here.
This is who Hendrick is, that is who these students are. These students have faced challenges and adversities, they have been told over and over again that they don’t belong in academia, that they will never succeed, and every one of these 80 scholars has picked themselves up and done it anyway. These scholars have taken everything life has thrown at them and used it to further themselves and Hendrick has been that launchpad for each of them. Because of Hendrick, my future children will be able to answer “bachelors or higher” for their parent’s education after generations of “middle school or lower.” Because of Hendrick, my children will have someone to help them with their homework, to help them with their college applications, to give them advice on scholarships and the college experience, something generations before me didn’t have. That is Hendrick’s mission, and every scholar that passes through this program is further proof that their mission moves mountains.”
Founded in 1991 by Plano ISD superintendent Dr. Wayne Hendrick, HSF’s mission is to provide Plano ISD graduates who have overcome significant adversity with scholarships and support services to promote success in life through education.
Yailyn Lora-Romero is a Plano 2021 graduate. She is a student and creative working on her Interdisciplinary Art and Design major and Marketing minor from the University of North Texas. In her free time, she works as part of Hendrick Scholarship Foundation’s marketing team as their Social Media Coordinator and also enjoys spending time with her friends, reading, drawing, painting and taking care of her multiple aquariums.