Michaila Oliveira – LatPro Scholarship Finalist for December 2011’s scholarship program for Hispanic students is proud to announce Michaila Oliveira as one of the three finalists for its December deadline application. Vote for her essay by clicking the thumbs up button at the bottom of the page, and/or leave comments of support to help us with the selection process.

Michaila Oliveira‘s Essay:

How did you choose your major? What obstacles have you had to overcome and what will it mean to you to graduate with this degree?

In the fall of 1994, I stood before a judge for the first time. I was only three years old and the American justice system was about to set the tone for the rest of my life. I truly believe that God guided the hand of the judge that day when he ordered that I be removed from the custody of my incredibly young, drug-addicted mother and put into the custody of her older sister, my Tia Maria. This experience is the first thought that forms in my head when I am asked why I chose to pursue a degree in Political Science. I chose this major because I want to study and eventually interpret the law. This major chose me because I desire to save the lives of children who have no one to speak for them; I want to give them the chance to thrive that a family court judge gave me 17 years ago.

My family emigrated from the Azores, an autonomous archipelago of Portugal, in the late 1970s. My grandparents and their 9 children truly had nothing when they settled in Fall River, Massachusetts; they relied on the generosity of the Portuguese community already settled in the area for base necessities until my grandfather could find a job in a factory. My Tia Maria scrubbed floors at her catholic school in order for them to waive her tuition and my Tia Helena cleaned houses to supplement her father’s income. A few years after settling in the United States, both of my grandparents passed way and that was when my mother began her downward spiral. Life for my familia was incredibly difficult at that time, but we are a strong, stubborn people and nothing could keep us down forever.

As time passed, things got better. Although uneducated, my aunts and uncles were able to find jobs and settle into life in a new country. When my My Tia Maria took custody of me, she lived in a comfortable single family home that she shared with her husband (my Tio John), mother-in-law, and older brother. She worked so hard to give me the life she never had. She and her husband truly treated me as their daughter and I will always think of them as my parents. My Tia Helena and Tio Charlie took me to church and Sunday dinner every weekend; they encouraged me to follow my dreams and take risks and if I fell, they promised they would be there to catch me. These four amazing people told me that I could do anything, and I believed them…I still do. But, as I’ve gotten older, the reality of my socioeconomic position has caught up to me. I have no connections and no money, but I have my brain, my heart, and my family. I need this scholarship to fulfill my nearly lifelong dream of becoming an attorney and eventually a judge. I will be the first in my family to graduate with a college degree, but I refuse to be the last. This degree will not just be a measure of my academic success, it will be a source of pride and honor for my Tias and Tios and it will be proof to my young cousins that, just like our parents, we are a strong, stubborn people and we can overcome anything.

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