This fall, Heidy Mejia-Puerta will wake up for her first day of school on the other side of the country.
Mejia-Puerta, a Hermiston High School senior, was recently accepted to Brown University as an early-decision applicant. The terms of the application state that Mejia-Puerta is now committed to attending the Ivy League school — an exciting prospect for her.
“Looking at the curriculum, the location and the student body, I found [Brown] to be the one for me,” she said. “I knew if I did early decision, I’d be happy with attending Brown.”
Though she has not yet visited the campus, Mejia-Puerta said one of the things that attracted her about Brown is the school’s open curriculum, which does not bind students to general education requirements. The school allows undergrads more flexibility in early classes they take before settling on a course of study. A first-generation college student, she said she is unsure of what she’ll study, but is interested in law and political science.
She is also the recipient of the Brown University Scholarship, which will cover a significant portion of her tuition.
She credited her admission to the school to taking advantage of resources available to her, as well as help from teachers and staff.
A member of the LEDA (Leadership Enterprise for a Diverse America) scholars program, Mejia-Puerta spent several weeks last summer at Princeton University learning about how to prepare for college applications.
“I think the application process, for me, was much simpler than for a lot of my classmates,” she said. “I had a lot of resources and people helping me. But as facilitated as it was, it was still daunting.”
She said being involved with LEDA helped, with people from the program continuing to check on her and helping her with the process even after she returned from Princeton.
She also credited her involvement with the Generation College program, run by Hermiston High School staff Melody Bustillos and Roger Berger.
“Most of the opportunities have been thanks to them,” she said.
She said her family was excited by the news.
“I think they were a little shocked [...] now that it’s actually happening,” she said. “They’ve been very supportive.”
Mejia-Puerta moved from Umatilla to Hermiston High School as a sophomore. She has been involved with the speech and debate team, DECA, Knowledge Bowl club, and the National Honor Society — of which she is now president.
While at Brown, Mejia-Puerta said she hopes to explore academic opportunities, as well as stay in touch with her roots.
“Going away this summer really taught me the importance of my culture,” she said. “I realized there aren’t always going to be people around me that cook the food I like, celebrate the things I celebrate.”
She said she hopes to join a club or group that allows her to continue exploring and learning about her cultural background.
Mejia-Puerta is the sixth LEDA scholar from Hermiston High School since the program was created 13 years ago.
Contact Jayati Ramakrishnan at email@example.com or 541-564-4534