Mikayla Sanchez wiped away tears as her parents rushed to embrace her after University President Rev. William P. Leahy, S.J., announced her as this year’s Saint Oscar A. Romero Scholarship recipient.
“As a second generation American, I feel the need to persevere and utilize the opportunity so selflessly provided and presented to me by my parents,” Sanchez said.
The Saint Oscar A. Romero Scholarship Award recognizes a Boston College junior whose life demonstrates an understanding of and commitment to the values and ideals demonstrated through Romero’s life. The 30th Annual Saint Oscar A. Romero Scholarship Award ceremony took place Saturday night in the Yawkey Athletic Center.
“[Students] must show dedication to learning in service of the Hispanic Latino community, not only at Boston College but also outside in the wider community,” said Milvia Sanchez, co-chair of the scholarship’s selection committee.
The other two finalists were Maribel Andrade, MCAS ’23, and Alberto Juarez, MCAS ’23. All three finalists will receive a $1,000 gift certificate to the BC Bookstore, and the winner of the scholarship will receive up to $25,000 toward senior year tuition. The other two finalists will receive up to $3,000 toward their senior year tuition, according to the Romero Scholarship website.
O. Ernesto Valiente—an associate professor of systematic theology—delivered the keynote address, exploring three virtues that he believes capture the life of Romero.
“Firstly, the virtue of honesty,” Valiente said. “Second is the virtue of solidarity … and thirdly, the virtue of hope that allowed Romero to be faithful to the end and to put his life in the hands of God.”
After the keynote speech, several previous Romero Scholarship recipients spoke and the Latin student dance group VIP performed. Leahy then congratulated each finalist before presenting the award to Sanchez.
“I congratulate each of them for their hard work, for their integrity, their desire to help improve our award,” Leahy said. “That’s powerful. And we’re all beneficiaries for their example and their commitment.”
In her acceptance speech, Sanchez said she first became interested in the Romero Scholarship during her freshman year.
“Saint Oscar’s legacy serves as inspiration for me to be a person for others and support my fellow Latinos as we overcome barriers and face imposter syndrome head on,” Sanchez said.
According to Rev. Gustavo Morello, S.J., Sanchez grew up watching her parents, who are Dominican and Colombian immigrants, confront poverty and discrimination. She later interned in the U.S. Attorney’s Office, where Morello said Sanchez furthered her knowledge about the realities of racism in the American justice system.
“Having interned at the U.S. Attorney’s Office, she began to gain a greater understanding about systemic racism that exists within the justice system,” Morello said.
Sanchez said witnessing Black and Latino families affected by the systemic racism ingrained within the U.S. justice system first hand through her internship inspired her to pursue a career in immigration or defense law, she said.
“Hearing about Romero’s devotion to human rights, scholarship, and faith led me to focus on discernment and identify parallels between pivotal moments in Romero’s life and my own,” Sanchez said.
At the ceremony, Ronaldo Rauseo-Ricupero, BC Law ’07, received the Rev. John A. Dinneen, S.J., Hispanic Alumni Community Service Award—an award given to a BC alum of Latin American descent whose work and service reflects both Romero’s and Dinneen’s leadership.
“I think we have all received such powerful messages about the meaning of life, the importance of commitment, of dedication, and a sense of hope that we can make an impact and we can have a difference made in our worlds by our actions,” Leahy said.
Featured Image by Nicole Vagra / Heights Editor