Ada Marys Lorenzana was always a good student, but when it came to going to college, she wasn’t sure how she would pay for it. As a junior at Lane Tech High School, she had applied and been accepted to four-year universities, but there was no federal financial aid available to her. That’s when her high school counselor told her to look into City Colleges, and specifically the Star Scholarship, which convers tuition and books. He told her that community colleges are a good option, and helped her see past the stigma that often comes attached with making that choice.

She decided on Harold Washington College when she found out she was a recipient of the Star Scholarship, and in her own words, “coming to Harold Washington College was the best decision I could have made.”

Aside from saving her family thousands of dollars on tuition, she found a supportive environment where she was able to become part of the community, get involved in student activism, and eventually go on to found Undocumented Students and Allies (USA) at Harold Washington. She was also part of the Organization of Latin American Students (OLAS), Student Government Association (SGA), and the Phi Theta Kappa honor society, creating friendships and a strong support network along the way.

“Everyone here has been extremely supportive,” she said. “Not just the students I’ve met through the clubs I’m involved in, but professors and staff as well.”

She was particularly inspired by political science professor Ingrid Riedle, English professor Dr. Maria Jesu Estrada and Latino studies professor Juanita del Toro. Riedle motivated her to not only focus on politics, but also to join the Chicago Council of Global Affairs. It was through Dr. Estrada that she joined Tribuno del Pueblo, a national bilingual newspaper that focuses on the struggles of immigrants and the lower class. Professor Del Toro inspired her to delve into the history of Latinos and helped her figure out what she wanted to do with her college education. Ada Marys was also part of Latino Union of Chicago, an organization dedicated to advocating for undocumented laborers. She is now a part of the taskforce for the Illinois RISE Act, a bill that would provide undocumented and transgender students with state financial aid.

Always passionate about social justice, Ada Marys started out studying sociology, but switched to political science after a particularly inspiring political science class. Now, she plans to complete her bachelor’s degree in political science with the help of the Jack Kent Cooke Transfer Scholarship, a prestigious award granted to high achieving community college students. She is also a dream.us recipient, a full ride scholarship exclusive to undocumented students to any of their partner colleges.

Ada Marys will graduate with her Associate of Arts in Political Science, and will attend the University of Southern California this fall. She has applied to top universities across the country and hopes to be an immigration attorney in the future.

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