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Scholarship winner reflects on struggles, successes

June 25, 2010 at 1:25 a.m.
Updated June 26, 2010 at 1:26 a.m.

Montse' Garcia was a Beat the Odds senior scholarship winner in 2007, who spoke at this year's Beat the Odds banquet.

Editor's Note: Montse' Garcia was one of the speakers at this year's Beat the Odds banquet in May. Her speech inspired others at the banquet and was provided for publication by event organizer Mary Cox.

Montse' was a senior scholarship winner in 2007. She won the BTO Scholarship Committee's hearts when she wrote that when things got difficult in her life, she would retreat to the woods behind her apartment and read until sunset. Those hours of escape, she says, eventually became much more: they led to a passion for knowledge that has allowed her to surpass many of the obstacles in her life.

Montse' is a student at Trinity University, where she is double majoring in International Relations and Spanish. With a 3.5 average, she is a member of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars and a member of several honor societies, service fraternities and clubs. Montse' was a member of Trinity's award-winning World Model United Nations delegation this spring to Taiwan, and received the Everheart Kohler Study Abroad Scholarship for Latin American Studies for her semester in Argentina. In addition to her on-campus job, Montse' interns off-campus for former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Sichan Siv.

Good evening and congratulations once again to tonight's winners. You are such inspirations to us all.

College has been an amazing experience, and definitely one I would do twice if I could. It's provided me with so many opportunities to learn and grow as a person and, along the way, I've had a lot of fun. And all of this was the result of the hard work I did in high school.

But for me, succeeding and studying hard in high school was not so much a choice as a necessity. I never questioned the need to work hard because I saw college as a liberation, as a way of escaping my situation. And maybe it's the same for many of you here.

However, that all changed when I entered college. There were so many more options available to me, so many opportunities. I realized that success in college wasn't like success in high school, where hardship had meant a decisive lack of options.

Yet all these new choices brought their own difficulties, because now I was the one to define what success meant. It was up to me to decide which paths to pursue.

I was fortunate; I already knew what I wanted to study and why I wanted to study it. And I already knew what I wanted to do after college, even if, as a freshman, life after college was only a vague reality.

But I think that is at least part of the reason for my success - I never stopped looking ahead and I never stopped looking within. Because in the end, what you are searching for ahead is always the culmination of what is within.

College is a great place to discover who you want to become, but to do that, you must first know who you are.

Three years ago, when I left this banquet hall, I remember crying from happiness that there were others who, like me, had struggled, had fought, and had succeeded despite everything. It was such a relief to me that there were people who understood what I had overcome - people who didn't pity me for it but who recognized that these obstacles had only made me stronger, had made me a better person. I was so inspired, by my peers, by the past winners, and by the Cox family. I hope that you leave this banquet hall feeling the same way as I did - inspired to keep working, to keep struggling, inspired to keep beating the odds.

I'm not sure if anyone else here is as much a Harry Potter fan as I am, but there is a part that I think aptly shows the importance of hardship in our lives. Ron, while reading Harry Potter's tea leaves, sees a cross, meaning trials and suffering, and a sun, meaning great happiness. As Ron puts it, this means that Harry will "suffer, but be happy about it."

I wish the same future for you all, for it is only through our suffering and sacrifice that we find our deeper meaning. Obstacles are meant to make us better, not bitter, and this is just the beginning for you guys. I am so excited for you all, and I congratulate you once again. I encourage each one of you to keep striving and to keep believing.

Because you're worth it.

Thank you.

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