Two San Diego teens whose families migrated to the United States in search of a better life were accepted to Harvard University, and now, they dream of giving back to the communities who saw them grow.
Azul Marmolejo, who attends Southwest High School, says she was inspired by her grandmother to pursue her dreams and fulfill her goals.
A few cries and tears of happiness, Marmolejo’s family celebrated that she was accepted to the university in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Her parents recorded the moment when they read the letter of admission.
“As soon as I clicked the button, I saw the ‘Congratulations’ and everyone started screaming. I almost fainted. My vision became blurry and I just couldn’t believe what was happening at that moment,” she said.
Her family is originally from Tijuana, Mexico, and hopes to become a cardiologist to return to San Diego and contribute to her community.
Marmolejo dreams of opening a nonprofit foundation to support immigrants in providing medical services on both sides of the border, in the United States and Mexico.
“I want to come back to my community and be able to help patients like my grandmother who maybe suffered social, cultural and social-economic barriers,” she said.
Thang Ho, who attends Crawford High School, is originally from City Heights was also accepted to Harvard University. He is the first student in his high school to have been accepted in the last 10 years.
Ho said he remembers the day he got accepted very vividly as he was with his mom and zooming with his brother who was in the Bay area.
“I was opening up the portal and all of a sudden it [said], ‘Congrats, Welcome to Class of 2025 we are delighted to inform you, you got into Harvard,’” Ho said. “It was such a shock.”
He is happy that the future of his family made up of his mother and brother has improved with this college opportunity.
“I can’t even begin to [describe] how happy I am to finally repay my mother because she works non-stop for me,” he said.
Thang is an immigrant from Vietnam and will study computer science and psychology. Something he hopes to combine in the future to benefit the immigrant community in City Heights.
“I want to improve the mental health services and the quality and accessibility of those services to nearly all immigrants,” he said.
The two will head to Massachusetts in late summer where they will begin their first semester at Harvard. Both obtained scholarships that will cover their tuition.
Azul and Thang are part of the First Gen Scholars organization that helped them apply for these scholarships.