UMBC Freshman Awarded 32BJ SEIU College Scholarship

On Saturday, May 17, 32BJ SEIU awarded Hector Barrera, a 19-year old University of Maryland Baltimore County freshman and Silver Spring, MD resident with a $5,000 yearly scholarship. Barrera, a Montgomery Blair High School graduate, is one of 344 applicants who are children of 32BJ members. His mother, Rosa Mercado is a Silver Spring resident and commercial office cleaner working in Bethesda.

Each year, a limited number of scholarships are granted to employees and their eligible dependents that apply for and meet the requirements for an award. 32BJ uses an independent committee made up of five admissions professionals from area colleges and universities. They are given broad latitude to select those who they think are most deserving and they weigh the strength of grades, test scores, essays, and letters of recommendation.

The committee looks for both the strongest academic performers and a diverse group of recipients with history of overcoming hardships. The money can be used to help pay tuition, room and board, and book costs for full-time study at any accredited four-year college or university. It’s paid directly in equal parts to the college or university each semester that the student proves full-time enrollment and remains in good academic standing.


Below are essays submitted by Barerra

My True Colors

It is funny that whenever I have to talk about myself I start to get goose bumps. I think I’m just nervous I will not be able to compare with those that have done more or even better things than me. I guess these two sentences already tell you a little bit about me. You might think I’m a little insecure, doubtful, and even stupid for sharing something like this, but it is the truth.

This is who I am. I’m insecure, scared, doubtful, and I also worry about things that most people my age do not worry about. Like for example, the other day after watching a Stephen Hawking’s documentary I told my mom that in four to five billion years the sun will expand into a red giant and destroy the Earth in the process. I looked at her troubled by the thought of children, women, and men who are decedents of me, dying. I looked at her telling her that there truly is an end to everything; that one day everything will be gone. My mom rolled her eyes at me and said, “Well, just enjoy today.”

But I do not just intend to enjoy today or tomorrow, because even with my doubts and even with my insecurities, I intend to push through these feelings, work hard, achieve my dreams, and enjoy the rest of the days of my life.

The 32BJ scholarship is very important to me because it will help me graduate with a Bachelors of Arts in Health Administration and Policy at UMBC. It is my dream to make a difference in the field of health care policy and reform; especially now that I see more than ever health care becoming such a pervasive and demanding part of our society. I want to make health care affordable to everyone, in particular the most vulnerable populations. That is why it is my professional goal to work alongside government and lobby for the rights of our country’s most medically disadvantaged and underserved populations. This includes people that are uninsured, women and children, the homeless, the mentally ill, people with HIV/AIDS, persons living in rural areas, and racial/ethnic minorities.

I hope to graduate with the knowledge and experience to really make a difference in the lives of the people who are unfortunate to receive good, timely, and affordable health care. I believe health care is a human right not a reward for those people that are willing and able to pay. The equitable distribution of health care should be a societal responsibility. Thus, the government should do more to control the production and distribution of health care since it is my belief that the inability to obtain medical care because of a lack of financial resources is unjust. Health care should be a social good not an economic good and I intend to make that happen.

Héctor Barrera antes de recibir la beca en na ceremonia que tuvo lugar en la Iglesia Metodista de Silver Spring. Foto: Ramón Jiménez.

Héctor Barrera antes de recibir la beca en na ceremonia que tuvo lugar en la Iglesia Metodista de Silver Spring. Foto: Ramón Jiménez.

But first I ask for your help to make my college career possible and highly rewarding as well. I ask for you to give me the opportunity to learn the things I need in order to accomplish the dreams I have for myself and my community.



I have always been very passionate about engaging in my community because I believe in the transformative power that lies in service. I have volunteered at the Montgomery County Recreation Department supervising children with disabilities. I have also interned at Centro Nia, an educational center in Washington, D.C. serving low-income families. Working with families and children is something I enjoy doing because I believe that in empowering vulnerable communities lies the future of our country. In my capacity as an intern and volunteer, I learned how important it is for our societal and economic wellbeing to work to enable our communities to access quality resources and achieve their dreams. While in high school, I was the Spanish Column Writer for my high school’s newspaper. I mostly wrote about social issues concerning the Hispanic/Latino population. Since then, I have become more involved in athletics at my university. I’m a member and Captain of UMBC’s tennis club. I really enjoy playing tennis as it keeps me active. While these experiences have shaped my thinking in many ways, I’d like to expand on one that I believe has helped me grow the most. Last year, I volunteered as an English teacher at CASA de Maryland, which is Maryland’s leading nonprofit organization working to help immigrants adjust and adapt to life in the United States. My objective at CASA de Maryland was to help Latino immigrants improve their English language skills so that they could pursue their dreams of getting a better job and/or access educational opportunities. In many ways volunteering at CASA de

Maryland was like being a “real life” educator. I had to prepare my own lesson plans, print out class materials (from my own printer at home), and make sure my students were listening, participating, and engaged in the learning process. Through this experience I learned the great many challenges of being a teacher. I pushed myself to ensure that my students were enjoying learning the English language, which often meant doing extra work and greater commitment on my end. I consider myself to be a shy person. It usually takes me some time to trust and feel fully comfortable with others. For that reason, this experience was a huge challenge for me. I felt scared because I first doubted my abilities as an educator. I had little confidence and I did not think I could be a mentor to anyone. This experience proved me wrong—showing me that when we are truly committed and passionate about making a difference we can achieve great things. I gave so much that year working at CASA de Maryland, but that does not compare to how much my students helped me grow as we all became accomplices in a beautiful learning experience.



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