Demonstrating Excellence, Integrity, and Service – Julissa Granados

Each year, CPE high school seniors have an opportunity to apply for the Henry D. Owen scholarship. This scholarship was named by CPE in honor of Henry D. Owen, a creative, compassionate, talented and diligent public servant who played a pivotal role in creating Capital Partners for Education. Mr. Owen was a distinguished diplomat and leader who served his country. The Henry D. Owen Scholarship was established in 2012 and is designed to assist a CPE senior who demonstrates a dedication to the program values.

First place for the 2020 scholarship was awarded to Julissa Granados. Her essay articulated her values of excellence, integrity, and service during her time in high school. She shares how her family, her mentor, and CPE influenced her throughout her high school matriculation.

Essay Submission: Having grown up with a strong sense of family and community, I have always known the importance of making sacrifices and placing the needs of others before my own, the same way my parents and their families did when they immigrated to the United States. My grandmother came to the United States with her 9 kids when my mom was 10-years-old. El Salvador has had a long history of socioeconomic inequality. When my parents were growing up, a Civil War broke out. Guerilla groups united and forced teenage boys to join them. My family was forced to make the decision to leave everything and everyone they knew behind to immigrate to a country that they knew very little about.  Likewise, my dad immigrated to the United States when he was 21-years-old in search of greater opportunity just like his older siblings had done. In the U.S., my parents experienced many hardships, especially due to the language barrier and discrimination they faced, yet they remained confident that God had a greater purpose for their lives and would always support them. Their faith and perseverance is what has encouraged me to hope for a better future for myself and has given me the strength to accept life’s challenges and grow from them.

As my parents navigated their new environment, they sought a community that would encourage and uplift them: spending time at our church, seeking support from other immigrants, investing in their educations, and seeking out community resources. Their dedication and search for help inspired me to step out of my comfort zone and seek guidance from others as I entered high school and joined the CPE community. CPE has a diverse group of staff and students with a shared goal of supporting those in need and fostering a safe environment for young students navigating a world that does not always support them. I didn’t realize how influential the CPE program would be in my life.

CPE is attentive to the needs of its students: visiting us at school, sending out reminders through text, and providing financial and emotional support. I’ve met amazing people through the program, including my closest friends. I’m comfortable being who I am and talking freely in the student leadership council meetings and at CPE events. I love sharing my experience, something that I would have been terrified to do 4 years ago. Another amazing thing about CPE is the mentor and mentee relationship. I can talk to my mentor about anything and we learn a lot from each other. As our relationship has evolved over time, I see her as more than just a mentor, I see her as a friend. I now understand how my mom felt when she had a mentor in middle school. My mentor has been just as influential in my life as my mom’s mentor was in hers.

My parents’ hope for a better future and fearlessness facing the unknown inspires me to remain hopeful. Starting high school was the biggest transition of my life. I attended a predominantly Latino school for eight years with my siblings and cousins. Then, I alone went on to an all-girls, predominantly white high school. I no longer had that same support system that I had relied on. At Visitation, I met students with strong opinions about politics and beliefs and I wasn’t sure how to face these differences until my school held their annual Diversity Day during my freshman year. Attending Diversity Day, I felt so proud of who I was and where I came from. I felt that sense of unity and understanding as students shared what they most identified with and I proudly shared my Salvadoran culture. I wanted to invest more of my time in learning and embracing the culture, but mostly I wanted to share this with others and learn from their cultures and experiences. I joined Kaleidoscope Club, which supports diversity and hosts the annual Diversity Day program. We worked to ensure all voices were heard and that people would be comfortable with having uncomfortable conversations. For Diversity Day, my group and I created school workshops on a variety of topics. I helped lead the Black Lives Matter workshop, where we discussed injustices that black people in America face.

I continue to feel a calling to serve my community just like my parents have done. My parents always said that helping people at a young age will leave a lasting impact in their lives. I have spent a great deal of time working with kids both in and out of my church community. I serve as my church’s assistant Sunday School teacher and have tutored students at the Latin American Youth Center. I also support children in El Salvador and assist with Salvadoran relief efforts and I hope to one day be able to do this in person. I’ve been invited to my old school to share my high school experience with the current students. I’ve given advice and support to students nervous about the new environment they’ll be entering.

Living a meaningful life requires us to acknowledge that life is much more than just working for our own good, we must embody excellence, integrity, and service throughout all stages of life. So much of what I do is rooted in giving back to those who have given so much to me. In the most amazing and difficult moments in life, there are others around us and that’s the beauty of being part of a community. I’m grateful to CPE for providing support to all people who step out of the elevator on the third floor and are greeted with a huge smile from the staff. As I leave high school and continue to grow, I hope to embody what Visitation has taught me: “be who you are and be that well,” and I want everyone that I meet to feel inspired to do the same.