Madeline Canales ’17 is a communication studies major. We asked her to share this speech she presented at the November Scholarship Dinner. She serves as a CFA peer mentor, a resident advisor for the transfer student community, and is a member of First to Go and the Tri Delta Sorority.
At Loyola Marymount University, I feel constantly blessed to have such diverse, encouraging peers, the benefit of amazing faculty and staff, and the support of gracious donors who made my dreams of coming to this school a reality.
I was born and raised in the South Bronx in New York City. I love where I come from because it has taught me so many lessons about my strength and worth, but I knew that I wanted to be the writer of my own story. I couldn’t do that in the place where I grew up, where I was restricted by the limited options available to “inner-city” students like me.
When I was looking at colleges, my high school mentor encouraged me to consider LMU. He told me it had been his dream school, and the fact that he wasn’t able to attend was one of his biggest regrets. I researched LMU, and it seemed great, so I put it on my list.
I narrowed my options to three places – Stetson University, LMU, and my safety school, College of Mount Saint Vincent. After receiving my financial aid packages from all three institutions, I put in my deposit for my safety school because it made the most financial sense, but I did not really want to attend it. During the years I spent at Mount Saint Vincent, my mentor regularly checked in and would ask if LMU was still on my mind. I thought about LMU so much my friends always told me I needed to transfer already. However, it was just not possible for me financially.
In my sophomore year, I was working as a waitress and the combination of making enough money to live on and being miserable at school caused me to finally withdraw. On the spur of the moment, I decided to reapply to LMU. Weeks later when I still hadn’t heard back, I called the transfer enrollment office, and Tom Gutto, the Director of Transfer Enrollment Services answered. I can still remember that conversation. He mentioned that my GPA had fallen a bit – to 3.3, my lowest ever. I explained to him how miserable I was – as a full-time waitress, attending a school where I felt no hope – and how I had practically given up. It was my third time applying to LMU, so he knew my passion was there. After almost an hour on the phone making my case, I was accepted.
My mother did not think me attending LMU was a possibility given our financial hurdles. In the last week of July, I received my financial aid package, and even though it didn’t fully cover my bill, it was enough to support my move to California. So I put in the deposit, told my family I was going, and took a leap of faith to follow my dreams. I finally felt I had the opportunity to rejuvenate my passion for learning, and to be a part of a community that aims to help others.
For me, having scholarship support means I can finally attend a university where I feel I can make a difference and be the best version of myself, not just to benefit myself, but to help others. Having scholarship support means that I do not have to work full-time to go to school, I can focus on my classes and studying for the GRE. Having scholarship support means that I can be the first person in my family to graduate from college.
Even so, during my first few months, I was homesick and worried whether I had made the right decision. But the people I met here helped me believe in myself so I could push on. I was elected President of the Residence Hall Association government for my residence. I found my family in my sorority sisters at Delta Delta Delta, and I became of a member of the First to Go Program. In my time at LMU I have also participated in the Millennium Momentum Foundation Leadership Development Institute, I co-founded a food insecurity club, I was an orientation leader, I lead in the first two Career and Professional Development VOCARE retreats, I am currently the Resident Advisor for the Transfer Living Learning Community. I can go on, but the point is, I would be none of those things if it wasn’t for my generous donors. This university has helped me grow to be my best possible self, and after I graduate I hope to continue my education at LMU as a graduate student working toward an MBA in Human Resources Management.
For those thinking about creating a scholarship at LMU, please give it consideration. The scholarships I have received have affected my life in ways that I can’t even put into words. I am not a college drop-out and I have a bright future ahead of me, two things that would not be true if it had not been for the generous scholarships I have received. So THANK YOU to all the outstanding donors who have given me the opportunity to graduate from my dream school and who have provided opportunities and blessings for the thousands of other students who wouldn’t be here without your help.