News, On Campus

Melanie Paredes Wins 2024 Oscar A. Romero Scholarship

Melanie Paredes’ mother embraced her as she stood to accept the 2024 Saint Oscar A. Romero Scholarship. Joyous cheers echoed throughout the room. 

“I am deeply, deeply indebted to my mother and her dedication and sacrifices and paving the way for me to access education,” said Paredes, MCAS ’25. “Her resilience, perseverance, and selflessness have been the cornerstone in my college journey.”

Named after former Salvadoran archbishop Saint Oscar A. Romero, the scholarship honors a Boston College junior who has showcased an outstanding commitment to service and involvement in the Hispanic and Latino communities.

The 32nd annual Saint Oscar A. Romero Scholarship award ceremony took place on Saturday night—one day before the anniversary of Romero’s assassination and feast day—in Yawkey Athletics Center. 

In her acceptance speech, Paredes encouraged audience members to continue fighting for marginalized people, as well as equal education and housing opportunities for all. 

“We must stand in solidarity and continue to fight for the rights of the marginalized and voiceless among us,” Paredes said. “Our commitment to justice, equity, and inclusion demands that we persist and advocate for our community.”

Paredes founded College Ambassadors, an organization seeking to help low-income and first-generation students navigate the college application process. She also conducted award-winning research on the impact of homelessness and education on families raised by single mothers, according to Rebecca Mitchell, associate director for curriculum and assessment at the Pine Minor Institute.

“Demonstrating her commitment to social justice, Melanie was the StartEmpowerment researcher recipient, leading groundbreaking research on the impact of homelessness on the educational attainment of children raised by single mothers,” Mitchell said. 

Paredes was one of three finalists alongside Karol Bedoya, CSON ’25, and Jacob Bojito, MCAS ’25, who were selected from a pool of 23 initial applicants—the largest in the scholarship’s history, according to Milvia Sanchez, co-chair of the Romero Scholarship Committee. 

As the winner, Paredes will receive up to $25,000 toward her tuition, while the other two finalists will each receive awards of up to $3,000. All three finalists also received a $1,000 credit toward the BC Bookstore.

Paredes was presented with the scholarship by University President Rev. William P. Leahy, S.J., who commended the finalists for their commitment to service.

“Those individuals that are the finalists here tonight offer us an example—they challenge us to live lives of service, lives of integrity, lives of fidelity,” Leahy said. “That’s not easy today.” 

Kevin Lopez, MCAS ’24 and co-recipient of the 2023 Oscar A. Romero Scholarship Award, applauded the finalists for their accomplishments and encouraged them to continue advocating for change.

“The job is not finished, and let’s continue to work hard towards making changes and creating a better community for all, little by little,” Lopez said. 

Jonathan Mora, LSEHD ’24 and co-recipient of the 2023 Oscar A. Romero Scholarship Award, praised all 23 applicants for their achievements and said the scholarship is a testament to the sacrifices the finalists made throughout their college experiences. 

“To me, this scholarship is not only an honor, it is a testament to every sleepless night, to every time you thought, ‘Is this really going to be worth it?’” Mora said. “It is a testament to your sacrifices and to your parents’ sacrifices.”

Rev. Alejandro Olayo-Méndez, S.J., an assistant professor in the School of Social Work, delivered the keynote address, challenging the audience to advocate for marginalized populations even when it is unpopular, as Romero did.

“One thing that we could do as we invest and commit ourselves in those things that we believe is never forget those who are voiceless,” Olayo-Méndez said. 

Migdalia Nalls, BC ’01 and BC Law ’04, also received the Rev. John A. Dinneen, S.J., Hispanic Alumni Community Service Award, which honors an alumnus who embodies the spirit of Saint Romero’s ideals and has a record of service to the Latino community. 

Paredes said she intends to continue advocating for inclusion of and fairness toward all people.

“The journey towards true equality may be long, but it is a journey that is worth undertaking,” Paredes said.

March 24, 2024