Daniela Vazquez Loriga, this year’s recipient of the Saint Oscar A. Romero Scholarship Award, said she feels inspired by Romero’s passion for social justice and tries to model her own advocacy after his example.
“To know that people think that I also embodied [Romero’s] qualities is extremely humbling, but also very inspirational,” Vazquez Loriga, MCAS ’22, said in an interview with The Heights.
The scholarship, which awards recipients up to $25,000 to go toward senior year tuition, celebrates Boston College students who demonstrate “academic achievement, extracurricular leadership, community service, and involvement with the Hispanic/Latino community and Hispanic/Latino issues both on and off campus,” according to BC’s website.
Before presenting the award at a Zoom ceremony on Thursday, University President Rev. William P. Leahy, S.J., discussed the reason for the celebration.
“How appropriate it is that tonight we are gathered to be together celebrating the life of Saint Oscar Romero, but also acknowledging the zeal, the commitment, [and] the advocacy of students at Boston College,” Leahy said.
Receiving the award reassured Vazquez Loriga of her future career plans, she told The Heights.
“I think the whole process really reassured me that even though maybe it is very daunting and maybe an overreaching dream to, you know, go into international justice or international law, but I think ultimately it’s worth it to at least try,” Vazquez Loriga said.
This ceremony began with an opening prayer from Rev. Donald MacMillan, S.J., who spoke on the legacy of Romero, an archbishop in El Salvador who spoke out against violence and injustice.
“Our world is a broken world,” MacMillan said. “Lots of unjust structures and sin. Just think of what has happened in our country, and at the border, these past months and weeks, let alone the pandemic that has caused such fear and misery in the world. Winning a scholarship that has Monsignor Romero’s name on it is a heavy burden.”
The keynote address was delivered by Hosffman Ospino, an associate professor of hispanic ministry and religious education chair at BC. Ospino emphasized the importance of hope and explained what the BC community should expect from its students.
“We want students who believe in hope,” Ospino said. “That means students who believe that hopelessness does not have the last word. Students who believe that those who sew despair in our midst, those who sew injustice among us, do not have the last word.”
After a virtual dance performance from Vida de Intensa Pasión, a scholarship committee member introduced each of the three finalists—Lazaro Alvelaez, CSOM ’22; Paula Sanchez, MCAS ’22; and Vazquez Loriga.
In a pre-recorded video, Alvelaez discussed issues that face the Latinx community, such as lack of equal access to education, health care, and safety, and said that he hopes to address such issues with a future career in the private sector.
“As we aim to tackle these issues, let’s reflect on the legacy and teachings of Saint Oscar Romero,” Alvelaez said. “It is our duty to help those in need, speak up for the voiceless, and most importantly, use our platform to accomplish these things. It is only by working together that lasting change will be made.”
In her video, Sanchez explained the importance of education in her quest to help the Latinx community.
“During my educational career, I have devoted my time inside and outside the classroom to strengthen my own voice and to understand these systems of inequality in order to be better equipped to meet the challenges faced by members of my community,” Sanchez said.
During Vazquez Loriga’s introduction, she spoke about Romero’s influence on her and the inspiration he provides her.
“Saint Oscar Romero inspires me to be the voice for the voiceless, as he was for his community,” Vazquez Loriga said. “He is my model for building my sense of community and social justice advocacy, fighting for the rights of my people and the liberties of others around the world.”
Vazquez Loriga said she was very surprised when Leahy announced her as the winner, because she felt the other two candidates were also completely deserving.
“I was very, very shocked,” Vazquez Loriga told The Heights. “I was thinking to myself … ‘Regardless of the outcome, I feel like any one of us really does deserve this award.’ I feel like I was at peace.”
Featured Image Courtesy of Marcela Norton