Willimantic, Conn: — Lisa Chavez, a recent New London High School graduate, will attend Eastern Connecticut State University in September with help from an arts scholarship from the Gales Ferry-based Latin Network for the Visual Arts.
Chavez describes herself as thoughtful, patient and motivated, qualities that helped her win the $1,200 scholarship. She served as president of her high school’s art club; as a first-generation Mexican-American, she is striving to keep her heritage alive. Chavez hopes to be the first in her family to graduate from college. Her long-range goal is to become a successful businesswoman or serve in a profession working with people.
Chavez’s parents came to the United States about 20 years ago, leaving a large extended family in Zacatecas, Mexico. They made a good home for their daughter and two sons, but were unable to pursue their own educational dreams. Chavez sees her parents’ struggles as motivation to work even harder, and credits New London High School’s Higher Edge program for helping her to apply to college and complete grant and scholarship applications. Her artwork includes a self-portrait, paintings of flowers, cut drawings and a ceramic version of the Tweedy Bird cartoon character.
Chavez’s scholarship essay detailed her Quinceañera, a Latin American rite of passage as she turned 15. She celebrated her day of quince with her relatives in Mexico, transforming from a girl to a young adult in a series of elaborate steps that included doing her hair and makeup, wearing a formal gown and attending a traditional Mass of Thanksgiving, followed by a lavish party with dancing and symbolic presentations. “My cultural traditions helped me mentally prepare myself by understanding what each tradition meant,” she said. “I was fulfilled because the whole process helped me with my self-esteem; it made me realize I now was ready to become a responsible adult.”
Chavez named Selena Quintanilla, the late Mexican-American pop star, as her favorite performer. She said she likes Selena’s lyrics about the power of love. “I believe she worked very hard and wanted to be a leader. Even though she was pressured by her family, she made her own decisions and I think that’s important in life.”
Chavez wants to be a role model for her younger brother and is passionate about learning, wanting to give back to her community after she graduates. Her favorite book is “Tuesdays with Morrie,” because it teaches lessons about life. “It’s very inspiring and makes you look back at life and think of it in a different way,” Chavez said.