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By Billy Rudolph

The fall semester for 17-year-old Kaylhan Garcia should be the beginning of her last year in high school. But this Ball High School graduate is not only attending college at American University in Washington D.C., she’s doing it on a full-ride.

Recently, Garcia was awarded the Live Más Scholarship from Taco Bell, where she worked during her senior year. The company chose her from more than 10,000 video entries and awarded her $25,000 after posing the question ‘What are you passionate about?’

“My passion is community service. I’m still working on my nonprofit organization,” says Garcia. It's called Dreamers Thrive and it’s about increasing and mobilizing civil engagement through education and volunteerism. I plan to establish the organization at American University.”

The university awarded nearly a full-ride scholarship, and the Taco Bell money will help her pay for whatever is not covered. She was also offered five other scholarships to schools hoping she would choose to walk their halls. 

Her mom, Zurisaday Robbins-Briz, knows that graduating high school in three years wasn't easy, especially during COVID. Not only did she accomplish this, but did it while working full time and virtually tutoring a middle school student who attended Collegiate Academy.

“I’m very excited and very happy for the journey she’s about to take. She has worked for this. Nothing has been given to her,” emphasizes Robbins-Briz. “COVID taught her how to be self-paced and self-motivated while she did remote classes.”

“My family was a top support system,'' notes Garcia. “I’ve had this dream of helping others. During COVID lockdown it opened my eyes to want to be a representative for my people. I want to be active in things like Black Lives Matter, stopping Asian hate, Hispanic Lives Matter, and other minority organizations.”

“It’s bittersweet because she is leaving home and her family,” whispers her mother. “ But we have prayed, planned, and prepared for this and I am so proud of her.”

“As the daughter of two hard-working parents, I want to leave a lasting impact for people of color,” proclaims Garcia. “You need discipline to accomplish what you want to do. I want to be a living testimony to minority groups and let them know that you can accomplish your dreams.”

Her dream doesn’t end at American University. Garcia plans to pursue law at Yale, Columbia, or UCLA upon graduation. Kaylhan’s organization, Dreamers Thrive, can be found on Facebook and Instagram.

  • Alumni