Immigrant Scholarship Recipient Hopes to Pursue a Medical Career
Our Alternative Spring Break Scholarship recipient, Gabriela Solano Serna has had to overcome many challenges in her young life. Emigrating from Mexico at age 10, Gabriela and her family left behind everything in order to start a new life in the United States. Unable to receive any government aid, including food stamps, medical care or scholarships through FAFSA, Gabriela and her family have struggled to make ends meet. But, instead of discouraging Gabriela, it has motivated her to volunteer in her community to make a difference for those facing hardships like her family.
The Casey Feldman Foundation scholarship stipend enabled Gabriela to travel to Atlanta last year over her spring break to work with the Atlanta Harm Reduction Coalition (AHRC). The alternative spring break trip was one of many organized by the Volunteer Resource Center at the University of Colorado Boulder where Gabriela is a student. The AHRC works to build relationships with individuals who are either suffering from or in danger of contracting HIV/AIDS, STD’s and Hepatitis Viruses and is the only comprehensive harm reduction program in the entire state of Georgia.
During her week in Atlanta, Gabriela did a lot of hands-on work with the coalition in underprivileged communities and visited the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to learn about the long-term benefits of the work she just participated in. One activity in particular stood out to Gabriela—a needle exchange. A needle exchange is a program that provides drug users with clean needles to prevent them from sharing and re-using contaminated needles, thus drastically lowering the chance of spreading diseases like HIV and AIDS.
“We helped distribute and make safety packs, which [are handed out] to individuals during the needle exchange in a poor community known as the ‘Bluff,’” Gabriela explained. “After visiting and interacting with individuals from this neighborhood, I was able to see the unprivileged side of the community and learn how the state plays a role in helping the community.”
“I would say that this opportunity helped me—it was definitely an eye opener, but [also] a motivation to pursue a career in the medical field,” Gabriela explained. She hopes to use her talents to become an Obstetrician Gynecologist to honor her sister who passed away in Mexico due to the lack of medical attention.
So what does this remarkable scholarship recipient hope to accomplish in the future? “I am passionate about providing medical care to those in the US that struggle every day to sustain families and who do not have as much access to adequate medical assistance, public benefits (like Medicare) or health care insurance as other privileged groups do,” Gabriela said. As an undocumented immigrant herself, Gabriela’s future plans also include opening a clinic to provide medical assistance, regardless of the patients’ immigration status.