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Julissa’s story

Julissa talks a million miles a minute — constantly celebrating those around her and overflowing with joy. She’s vibrant and energetic; encouraging and always smiling. 

She’s also from a community that is plagued with challenges. 

The region in which she lives struggles with alcoholism and addiction, has limited economic opportunities, and faces incredibly high rates of teen pregnancy. Perhaps worst of all, many people are unwilling to look beyond their circumstances. In so many ways, they’re stuck. As Julissa described, “Basically, my community is just really closed off.” 

Those challenges are particularly severe for young women. 

“A lot of girls my age don’t finish their studies,” she notes. “They get pregnant or they simply stop studying because they don’t have enough economic resources.”

Julissa refuses to let this be her story. 

Through the Institute and the Michael Lotito Fellows Program, Julissa noted, “I’ve learned that I can finish college. I can do more.”

And what does more look like for Julissa? A very big, very bold dream for the future. “I want to be the Mexican Ambassador to another country.”

She wants to move abroad to represent her culture to the rest of the world.

“I want to travel to other countries,” she said. “It’s part of the reason I want to study languages and culture — so that I can go to other places and learn about them. I don’t want to stay closed off here.”

With incredible confidence and strength, she is choosing the Road Less Traveled. 

This past summer, Julissa was awarded the inaugural Michael Lotito Scholarship — a prize that will cover her university expenses, provide her with one-on-one mentorship and support, and ensure that she can finish her education. 

But she’s not stopping there. 

“I hope that I can be an influence on my classmates to show them that girls can do just as much as boys. I want them to see that they can do way more than what is normally expected.” 

You can open doors for young women like Julissa. You can remove barriers and ensure that they can afford to stay in school. You can walk with them on the Road Less Traveled. 

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