September 2021

Brenda De Rosas Lazaro
Brenda De Rosas Lazaro

Credit Albert Lea High School’s annual Scholarship Night for helping Brenda De Rosas Lazaro find her way to college. Now a senior at Gustavus Adolphus College, she looks back on the semester her high school encouraged her to apply for scholarships, with several announced that evening. She ended up learning she had been awarded a $5,000 scholarship that was created by several donors, including local churches and the Rotary Club.

“I just didn’t think it was possible to go to college – and I was able to do this without putting myself and my family in debt while going to a recognized institution,” De Rosas Lazaro said.

De Rosas Lazaro credits the Minnesota State Grant as solidifying her plans to attend college; the program provides need-based grants to one out of three college students in the state. As a DACA recipient, she was not able to apply for federal need-based financial aid through the FAFSA, so she was grateful for the Minnesota State Grant for filling that gap.

“The Minnesota State Grant has provided me the opportunity to access higher education at a great institution like Gustavus Adolphus College. The continuation and expansion of the Minnesota State Grant and financing for higher education institutions are the start of an effort to close the opportunity gap that underprivileged students face,” De Rosas Lazaro said.

Brenda knew that she made the right choice by attending Gustavus when she discovered her passion by being a political science major and public health minor.

“Everyone I met on campus was so willing to help. I liked the small community and campus. I have grown as a person, and I have made so many more connections than I could ever imagine. They are from many different backgrounds that I will never stop learning and growing from the people that I’ve met at Gustavus,” De Rosas Lazaro said.

As a first-generation immigrant whose parents brought her to the United States at the age of two, De Rosas Lazaro has learned that it is important to be one’s own advocate. This has required her to step outside of her comfort zone to discover the resources on campus, such as securing career planning guidance from the career development center.

“After graduating next year, I intend to work for a nonprofit organization that focuses on immigration, public service, and policy to build experience for graduate study in political science or public health. I hope to help those in my communities, so they don't have to endure the struggles I did,” De Rosas Lazaro said.

In particular, she has seen the value of asking the right questions when understanding options and ensuring she has the support she needs. In addition, she believes that taking the initiative to apply to student organizations and for leadership positions helped create a vibrant and joy-filled experience, one that helped her grow as an individual.

“I honestly couldn’t have done it without the State Grant and the scholarships I got through my high school and Gustavus,” she said. “I don’t feel like it would have been realistic for me without it being financially accessible.”

By Monali Bhakta