Tempe, AZ – Bianca Uriarte is tough. She plays basketball in a men’s league and beat the overwhelming odds of getting into college. Bianca says, “I graduated from Alhambra High School, which is a Title 1 School. I’ve learned that only nine percent of students, which is one in ten, coming out of low income backgrounds like mine will earn any type of college degree. I want to work to increase that percentage and help students become exceptions to the statistic, and get a great education.”
Bianca, age 22, was born and raised in Phoenix and she expects to graduate later this year from Arizona State University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Secondary Education, and then pursue a graduate degree, “Right now my major is Secondary Education Mathematics, and right after I graduate in December I plan to start my PhD program in higher education. Ultimately, my goal is to teach future teachers at the university level, and also teach mathematics at the university level to help students who struggle with math, and we have a very high need for math teachers. So, I know this type of work is always going to be available to me, and math is the area where students struggle the most and tend to fall behind. I would like to start off at a Title 1 school and return to my roots, and help the students there. Later on, I would like to end up teaching and coaching girls’ basketball at the university level, hopefully at ASU.”
Meanwhile, Bianca says playing basketball for much of her life has been an education in itself, “I started playing basketball in the fourth grade and I’ve been playing it ever since. Now I play in a couple of men’s leagues and co-ed leagues. There’s a men’s league up in Avondale that I play in, and I like to sort of stay away from women’s basketball, because I’m already used to playing men’s ball. Basketball had a very positive impact on me, because as a child I was really overweight, and my dad got me into the sport and I just wanted to play with him, and I still do. Basketball also gave me experience that goes beyond sports because it made me have to work at something to accomplish and get good at it. I was never really naturally athletic, which I believed actually helped me out, because I had to work really hard to achieve my goals and get better.”
Bianca is among the many high potential students from low income circumstances who have earned scholarships from College Success Arizona. The scholarships provide up to six-thousand dollars per year for educational expenses, and students also receive specialized mentoring services from a team of talent Success Advisers. Bianca says her success adviser, Matt Sotelo, has been very supportive, “Throughout my college experience I’ve been dealt a pretty rough hand of cards with life experiences and family issues, like having to take in my brother. Matt was there for me, and he was really understanding throughout the struggles and challenges of college. Whenever I was having difficulty with handling my studies, or even if I just needed somebody to talk to, he was always there and made sure that I was okay and good to go for the next semester.”
Bianca add that her father’s experience in life encouraged her to get an education:
“Seeing him struggle throughout my childhood and go through all of the struggles that we had to overcome, he always reminded us that this is why I have to go to college – to seek out a better life with less struggle. And, my dad seeing me get into college, gave him the encouragement to go back to college, and he graduated with a bachelor’s in management. Now he’s doing great and our family is doing amazing.”
Bianca is hopeful that her life story can help to inspire others, “I see students from my kind of background who don’t think this is possible, who don’t even imagine going to college and they think that high school is the finish line, and they’re done. Showing students that there is more out there that they can actually achieve, I think is huge. I want to go to these Title 1 schools and show these students what is possible, and that if they pursue college – so many more doors will open for them.”
Since 2005, College Success Arizona has worked with nearly 1,300 students, and provided more than 16 million dollars in scholarships and success services to help increase the college attainment rate in Arizona. If you would like to be part of the mission of providing educational opportunity to high potential students from low income backgrounds, your tax deductible contribution can be made through the “Donate” button on the top of this page.
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