Jaqueline Villanueva Govea, 18 – FUNDED

Jaqueline Villanueva Govea will attend Duke University in the fall as a freshman — on the pre-med track. By sharing her story, she hopes to convince others that they, too, can break any and every stereotype like she has. “As a Mexican, female, undocumented, first-generation, and low-income person, I would’ve never imagined that I’d be attending such a prestigious school — my dream school — because of my economic and family background,” says this 1,000 Dreams Fund Scholarship winner. Yet she refused to give into her fears or other’s preconceived notions and now is stepping forward with confidence and excitement.

What is your professional dream?

My professional dream is to become a pediatrician. After completing my undergraduate years at Duke, I plan to apply and go to medical school to achieve this dream.

How will you use the 1,000 Dreams Scholarship?

I will use the funds to help me cover costs throughout undergraduate school. It will be of enormous help to my success because it will facilitate my college journey and lessen financial burden and worry. My mom is a single parent, which I admire a lot, and she already does so much to provide the best she can for my younger siblings and me. But, she isn’t able to contribute a lot.

How is this scholarship helping you get closer to your dream?

It will help me afford the resources I’ll need to prepare and guide me through my undergraduate years. From the books I need for my classes, to transportation to be able to get around campus and the city, school supplies to be able to organize and prepare for class, to weather-appropriate clothes to accommodate the different climate at my college.

What advice do you have for other young women who are wanting to pursue their dreams?

Don’t give up on your dreams — no matter what people may say to discourage you or what life may throw your way. I’ve experienced firsthand what it’s like to grow up with all the odds stacked against you while hearing stereotypical comments from people who thought that I wouldn’t go far in life. However, I didn’t give into this hate and instead pushed forward to make my own opportunities. No one was going to set/decode my destiny or the type of person I could be but me. You decide who you want to be, and which path is yours, and it is up to you to decide to not let the naysayers control your life.

Also, look for resources out there (such as scholarships like this one) to help guide and push you in your journey because you are not alone and there are people who believe in you and will help you accomplish your dreams. It’s okay to ask for help and don’t be afraid or feel like you’re not worthy of that help because you are. Do it for your dream, do it for your family, and do it for you.

​Have you had any setbacks? How did you move past them?

There were many setbacks that I faced throughout my life which have strengthened me and allowed me to realize that I have what it takes to move past them. One of the main setbacks was caused by my undocumented status, as it has created rocky waves in my journey, often limiting scholarships, internships, resources, and job opportunities. As a result, I’ve dealt with a lot of disappointments and have had to grow a thick skin to persevere in my goals.

In eighth grade, I applied to a school with an incorporated work-study program. I worked on my application rigorously, attended the open house, and made sure my recommendations were submitted on time. My hard work, however, wasn’t enough. I was told then that the program was unable to accept an undocumented student. The news, at the time, scared me and I wondered if my immigration status would always work against me.

Fortunately, I didn’t let that experience define me. After I received the news from that school, I applied to the Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp and was accepted. There, I discovered my passion for STEM. I attended college classes and lived in the dorms. My determination to push ahead and persevere despite my status has led me to other opportunities where I’ve nourished my interests in STEM and writing. This proved to be a sign for me that, despite being turned down from one opportunity, my hard work and determination gave me a chance at another amazing opportunity which changed my life for the better.

What’s next for you? What is your next goal?

I will be attending Duke University in the fall. I am undecided about my major at the moment, but I am thinking of possibly majoring in Biology or Political Science. I was accepted into the Cardeas Program, designed for students interested in pursuing Pre-Med, and will begin to work hard to pass my classes with honors and fulfill the pre-med requirements. I will try to partake in internships, volunteering, and maybe shadowing to gain more physical experience and help the Durham community.

This was my first STEM competitions at the University of Houston where I participated in the Chiyoda Young Inventors Academy. My teammate and I won second place for our invention; it was a wagon with an AC solar-powered air conditioner for kids to be able to be cooled off during the summer.