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Park City High School Latinos in Action student awarded scholarship for ‘stronger together’ essays

Park City High School Latinos in Action students at an annual conference.
Mia Esquivel
Park City High School Latinos in Action students at an annual conference.

A Park City High School Latinos in Action student recently won a big scholarship at the organization’s regional conference. Here's more on one student’s story.

Latinos in Action is a national group meant to empower Latino youth and prepare them for college and careers. LIA programs are year-long elective courses at the middle school, junior high or high school level. The program also hosts conferences with workshops and competitions.

At this year’s LIA Conference for Central and Northern Utah, Park City High School LIA advisor Jake Jobe said students received multiple scholarships and awards.

“It was probably like the most successful year we've ever had at the at the conference,” he said.

Leslie Juarez, Anneliese Carreto and Melani Juarez won first place in the short film competition. Katy Munoz won third place in the writing competition. Eimee Meneses won one of four general scholarships.

Park City High School LIA president Jessica Loya won the writing competition and got the top Jose Cebellos Scholarship award at the conference. Both of her essays followed the conference’s theme: stronger together.

For her scholarship essay, Loya wrote about how her cultural values have influenced who she is as a student and person and the value of the LIA program.

“I looked up to peers when I was younger, and they tutored us at the elementary level," she said. "Now at the high school level, I'm one of the tutors.”

Loya said she has enjoyed being part of LIA because it opens doors to different opportunities, like the conference, and it allows students to be surrounded by others with similar backgrounds and goals. However, Loya said LIA also taught her to be a leader. In her essay, she wrote about participating in district board meetings to help adopt an equity policy and going to the Park City Council to advocate for affordable housing.

For the writing competition, Loya wrote about how unifying language can be.

“I wrote about Spanish, and how it's my first language," she said. "Yet, sometimes I felt like my English dominance or fluency was greater.”

In the essay, Loya wrote her dad once said to her, “Hablan mejor los misioneros mormones,” meaning Mormon missionaries speak better. She was embarrassed, but Loya said it was true and many Hispanic kids have heard something similar. The comment pushed her to work on her Spanish and she became an LIA tutor. With progress, she connected the language with film, music, food, art, traditions and culture.

At the end of the writing competition essay, Loya wrote there are 486 million Spanish speakers in this world, and they are all stronger together.

Loya will be attending the University of Utah this fall. While she is unsure what career path she wants to pursue, she wrote in her scholarship essay she does know who she wants to be: “a good daughter who can share new experiences with her parents,” “a good sister who can guide her little sister through challenges her parents are unfamiliar with and can support her older brother toward a lifestyle he can thrive in,” and “a good student who seeks learning opportunities outside the classroom.” Loya also wrote she wants to be financially independent to “support her family and give back to her community.”