"The quality and low-tuition cost of an HCC education illustrates the inherent value and access community college gives to underrepresented or low-income students seeking to pursue higher education."

— Mariana Sánchez Ramírez, 2014 HCC Grad, AA Liberal Studies

As a graduating high school senior, I was not certain where I would begin my college career or how long it would take, or even if it was financially feasible for me to attend college. My largest hurdle to obtaining a college education was affording tuition and fees while still being able to support my parents.

After months of deliberation, I applied for admission and was accepted in to the HCC Dr. Lydia R. Daniel Honors Program (Honors Program), and it felt like home. As a recipient of the Honors Program scholarship, it was also the first time I felt I could completely concentrate on my studies without having to worry about paying for tuition.

The quality of my HCC education surpassed all of my expectations. That sense of freedom to pursue opportunities and engage in on campus activities is invaluable. The Honors Program faculty, students, and staff were integral in helping me devise a path to unlock my utmost potential to make a positive change. Professors like Karen Linsky and Dustin Lemke demonstrated to me that they are invested in ensuring that their students succeed. The Honors Program opened many doors for me, and it was through their network, that I was able to apply for and land my first job at a local credit union.

My two years at HCC were full of exciting, new opportunities, and I was able to grow as a student and as a young professional. It created a space in and beyond the classroom for me to explore how I could make a difference in the world. After graduating HCC, I decided to search for a similar community oriented education experience to complete my bachelor's degree. Thus, I enrolled in the University South Florida Honors College.

My educational and extra-curricular activities at USF, coupled with the 2016 presidential election solidified my interest to pursue a career in public policy in Washington, DC. My career in Washington began as an intern at the Wilson Center's Mexico Institute a few months after graduating from USF. Once in Washington, I began to experience and see how aspects of the federal government, specifically, think tanks, are crucial to inform policymakers and the general public through nonpartisan research. Following my internship, I was offered a full-time position as a Program Coordinator at the Wilson Center's Canada Institute! I share my story to illustrate that your past does not dictate your future, and that with perseverance your dreams will become your reality. Thank you HCC and the Dr. Lydia R. Daniel Honors Program!