College “Fly In” Program Part 2: Hispanic Scholarship Fund’s Youth Leadership Institute at The University of Pennsylvania  

In the first of this two-part series, we spoke with El Rancho High School student Daniel Castañeda, a senior ERHS student, who attended Caminos al Futuro, a fully funded “Fly In” summer program at George Washington (GW) University.


This month we are featuring Lara Roman-Lopez, also a senior at ERHS, to learn about her experience with the Hispanic Scholarship Fund’s Youth Leadership Institute’s Fly In program at the University of Pennsylvania.


What inspired you to apply for the Hispanic Scholarship Fund’s Youth Leadership Institute?

            I applied for the Hispanic Scholarship Fund’s YLI because I realized I was off track in the college process.  I had no idea what colleges I wanted to apply for and how to write a personal statement.  After learning about the opportunity through Michelle Sandoval, Generation 1st Degree’s program manager, and Mrs. Nasouf, the College and Career Counselor at ERHS, I decided that this was something that I needed to do, so I applied.


How did your parents feel about you going away, out of state? How did you feel?

            My parents were very nervous for me because I have never done anything like this.  I too was incredibly nervous because I had no idea how I was going to get there, but the moment I was leaving my house, I knew this was going to be a great experience, and the feeling that I got of when I walked around campus proved that it was really going to be great.


How did you feel traveling alone, especially if it was your first time?

            The moment I got to the airport and had to wait for the shuttle that would be taking me was a very scary moment.  When arriving to UPenn, I realized that they sent me the wrong address, so I went around the school for like an hour with my huge duffel bag trying to find the dorms, which was very frustrating, but as I was walking around I really got to experience the feeling of being on campus and exploring.


What was the experience was like?

            It was a great experience and I believe everyone should take the time to apply for this.  I was given the opportunity to meet people from places like Texas, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and even Puerto Rico. The experience gave me the ability to recognize that a lot of my dreams are truly achievable.


What were the top 3 things you learned about leadership while you were there?

The top 3 things I learned were:                                                                                

  1. Networking is truly important,
  2. How to recognize others for who they are, and
  3. Leadership starts with having self-confidence.


What did you think living on campus would be like before this program? Did it meet your expectations, or was it totally different and how/why?

            Before this I thought living on campus with a bunch of strangers was going to be weird.  This program, though, really surprised me because I got really close with my other two roommates who are from Texas and Georgia, and I still keep in contact with them.  Overall, living on campus seems like a great experience because you get to be right in the center of everything.


Was there anything that surprised you about the leadership experience or living away from home?

            I was surprised how having self-confidence can change so much.  Many activities that we did just required having confidence, and the activities such as the networking activity proved how crucial confidence is in trying to communicate feelings and ideas.


What would you say to students who aren’t willing to apply to out of state schools?

I would tell students who aren’t willing to apply to out of state schools that it doesn’t hurt.  Going to an out of state school is not as scary as you think and it allows individuals to develop a sense of independence, which was something I heard a lot from mentors that went to places such as UVA, Yale, Harvard, and Emory.  


Have your goals for college changed because of this experience?

            My goals for college have honestly changed because this program showed me that a lot of schools I thought were out of reach are honestly not.  This program gave me a sense of confidence to not be afraid to apply to as many colleges that I have recognized as reach schools.


College “Fly In” programs are designed to provide qualifying students a chance to experience college life, often out of state. Many “Fly In” programs are offered at no cost, and include travel expenses, room and board, and enrollment into a leadership or diversity program. They are an exceptional way to experience college life, and G1DPR encourages students to seek out and apply for these life-enhancing opportunities.