Communications and Hispanic studies major Elizabeth Roja ’17 was able to realize her dreams of attending college with the help of the “Two Irenes Endowed Scholarship,” established by Keith and Mary Bednarowski in honor of their mothers. Elizabeth says her Saint Ben’s experience empowered her — and those around her — to step into the light of unlimited possibilities.
“I’m a first-generation college student from South-Central Los Angeles. My mother came to the U.S. from Guatemala. She didn’t even finish middle school. I always knew I had to go to college, but I didn’t know how I would make it happen. I didn’t see other Latinas near me who had gone to college, so there was no one to pave the way for me and show me what’s possible.
Now I’m a college graduate and I’m that person. When I go back to my community, people come to me for advice. So not only am I opening doors for myself, but I’m opening doors for others. My little sister sees what I have done and she thinks, I can do it, too. My scholarships made a huge difference. Without them, I would still be in Los Angeles.
When I first visited campus, it just felt right. I’d been waiting for that feeling while touring schools, and I found it here. Coming to Saint Ben’s has opened so many doors to opportunities that I had never even thought of. I was even able to study abroad in Guatemala and explore my heritage. After coming here, I’m so much more open-minded. I’ve experienced so much and know there are so many possibilities.”
Elizabeth is now a counselor for College Possible in Minneapolis, helping other students navigate their journeys through the college search.