The cost of college is a concern for many students and their families.
However, for Frida Mendez-Arce, a 2017 Granite Hills High School graduate, that concern was eased this October when she was named a recipient of Café Bustelo’s El Café Del Futuro Scholarship.
Mendez-Arce, who now attends California State Fullerton, was one of 20 recipients across the nation to receive a $5,000 scholarship and a Café Bustelo care package.
“I was really happy to hear about the scholarship just because it’s really going to help me in my future,” Mendez-Arce said. “One of the biggest stresses in college is always going to be financial things. And so it made me realize I could really focus on school without having to take off a bunch of work.
“And then especially receiving it from somebody who is very active in the Latin community was important to me because it correlated to my scholarship and just how as Latin people, we really have to uplift each other and create the groundwork for the next generation so that they can have these same opportunities in the future and be able to pursue higher education. That way, we can get more people into spaces that are going to advocate for us.”
The El Café Del Futuro Scholarship is offered to students at colleges that are a part of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU). This year’s application required an essay of 800 words or less about how a student’s Latino heritage, family, and community in which they grew up impacted their desire and motivation to obtain a college degree and how they plan to give back to the community.
Mendez-Arce said she wrote about being from the Central Valley and feeling neglected because of where she came from. She also wrote about how her family always supported and encouraged her to go to college.
“I really focused it a lot on my parents being field workers and being migrants from Mexico,” she said. “I think that’s really changed who I am and really motivated me. My mom always tells me that I get my smarts from her. I know that she wanted to be a teacher in the future, but she gave up her dreams so that her daughters could have a better future. I just talked about how education was always instilled in me because it’s something my parents always valued and something they always dreamed to have for us.”
Of Mendez-Arce’s three siblings, two have already graduated from college, and the other is working on her associate’s degree from Porterville College. Mendez-Arce graduates this year with a major in sociology and a minor in political science.
Even though she was a class valedictorian for Granite Hills, college took some getting used to for Mendez-Arce, and she had some advice for future and current students.
“I think you really have to put yourself out there and explore the spaces that don’t always include you,” she said. “I think that’s where we’re most needed. So really finding your values and then lining that up with your passion is going to make college worthwhile. And it’ll really be a life-changer because not only will it help you personally but then at the end you can come back and give to this community.”
With graduation coming up, Mendez-Arce is currently deciding between pursuing a law degree, which she would use to defend children or work with immigration, or getting her Ph.D. in public administration to help in the public service sector.
“I really just want to use my education, in turn, to give back to my community,” she said.