McDonald’s HACER National Scholarship Series, Featuring Francesca Maturo

Walter Elias Disney, commonly known as Walt Disney, once said that “all our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.” Taking his words and putting them into practice, Maria Polo and Alfredo Maturo left Lima, Peru with their four children to an unforgettable vacation at the renowned Walt Disney World complex, without them knowing that it was just the prelude to a life packed with favorable circumstances in the United States. 

Once in the land of opportunities, Mrs. Polo and Mr. Maturo ensured high-quality living and instilled in their children that education is key to achieving success. To pay back all their sacrifices, Francesca Maturo, the only daughter of the couple, worked hard in school to become a top student. Her academic excellence made her one of the 30 recipients of the McDonald’s HACER National Scholarship. The program awarded her with five thousand dollars to cover her tuition costs. 

Francesca Maturo’s road to success deserves to be known and as usual, we wanted to be the platform that shares her beautiful story. Find below how she became a scholarship recipient, her plans for the future and her advice to Latinx students.

How did you hear about the McDonald’s HACER National Scholarship? What motivated you to apply?

I heard about the McDonald’s HACER National Scholarship from an email both my mom and I received from my school’s guidance counselor. I recently asked my counselor for help looking for scholarships that I could apply for and she sent me an email with a list of scholarships that applied to my situation. 

I was motivated to apply because of my parents. My parents have always done the most they can for my brothers and I. They have always been my number one supporters and given me millions of opportunities. When applying for college, I began to see how expensive it was, like tuition, room and board, and other expenses that come with higher education. Despite this, my parents would never deny me the opportunity to go to college, even if they had to take out loans. I knew neither I nor my parents could afford to pay full tuition. I was then motivated to help my parents pay for as much as I could and lessen the financial burden. Getting a higher education was something that I have desired my whole life. I knew my dreams could not come true if I did not apply for scholarships. I wanted to give back to my parents after everything they have done for me.

What are you studying? Why did you choose this career path?

I am currently pursuing a major in International Relations and a minor in French at the University of Colorado, Boulder. I have always been interested in other languages and cultures. I love learning about the different history and background of each country and how that forms a country’s personality. I love to travel and get a sense of the world around me. I chose this career path because of my love for travel, other languages, and knowledge of the world around me. This career path helps me learn about the different cultures the world has to offer and to see the connection between all of them. It helps me be more aware of my surroundings and see how the world works. It helps me strive to make the world a better place. 

There are many reasons why I chose to study at the University of Colorado, Boulder. I am the type of person that needs to be able to have her family and friends around. These people are the most important people in my life and the ones I lean most on. CU Boulder is close enough to home where I can see my friends and family often, but far enough where I can also branch out and become more independent. I also chose CU Boulder because of the great atmosphere it has and the diversity of people it offers due to the size of the student body. I love meeting people from different cultures and parts of the world. CU Boulder has given me that great opportunity. I chose CU because when I walked on campus I got the feeling that this is where I needed to be.

Your parents knew that despite the language barrier, moving to the U.S was a great option. What was their reaction when you received the email notifying you were a scholarship recipient?

My parents were actually not with me when I got the email notifying me that I was a scholarship recipient. I was actually in Peru for spring break participating in a mission trip with my grandfather and had no access to Wi-Fi for days. I decided to go on his computer and check my email. I saw that I had received an email from HACER several days ago and when I opened it I cried of happiness. My parents did not find out about the scholarship until the day I got back from Peru. We were driving home from the airport when I told them. My dad pulled over because he was so proud and gave me a big hug. My mom called all of my brothers and asked them to come to dinner in order to celebrate this achievement. They repeatedly told me how proud of me they were and kept asking why I did not tell them sooner.

What was your reaction when you received the notification that you were a McDonald’s HACER National Scholarship recipient?

When I opened my email and saw the email from HACER, I screamed. I was so nervous to open the email, and when I finally did as both my grandparents hovering over me, I cried tears of joy. I was extremely happy and thankful for the wonderful opportunity I had been given.

Both your parents are college-educated and attended top schools in Peru. Why do you think they wanted you to study abroad?

I believe my parents wanted my brothers and me to study abroad because they believed we could get a better education and greater opportunities in the United States. Although my parents attended top schools in Peru, they both knew that the fields were very limited. There are only a certain amount of universities in Peru and each university specializes in one major. For example, my mom went to Universidad Femenina del Sagrado Corazón UNIFE, which specializes in education. My parents wanted me to have a chance to be whatever I wanted and pursue whichever career made me the most happy. Another reason why they wanted me to study abroad was that in Peru there are no funds or scholarships. Peru is in an extremely bad situation right now, both economic and government wise and it would be harder to get the same education I get here because of the corruption.

Who is your role model? Why?

My role model is my mother, Maria Polo. I consider my mother my best friend. She is always there to support my brothers, father and me. My mom will do anything for her family. From sacrificing buying herself something nice in order to be able to buy my brothers and me something to moving to a different country despite challenges such as a language barrier. My mom is the most selfless person I know. She is always aware of the people around her and gives back to her community. Once I asked my mom what she would do if she won the lottery, and she said she would separate some of it to pay both of my brother’s student loans, the rest of my college career, and my younger brother’s future college career. She would then give the rest to charity. I asked why she wouldn’t buy herself a new car or stop working? She responded that God has blessed our family enough and we need to give our extra fortunes to the less fortunate. My mom will do anything for her family and the people she loves and I highly respect that.

While in high school, you did a lot of community service. What was the most important lesson you learned during that time?

The most important lesson I learned while doing community service was to never take what you have for granted and always be thankful for what you have been blessed with. I feel like it’s easy to not acknowledge what you have and always want more. I, for example, have caught myself complaining to my mom why we cannot go out and eat when there is food at home. Many families across the globe cannot even afford to have food at the dinner table and I complain about why I cannot eat a certain type of food when I have food at home. I learned to be thankful for what you have and always appreciate it. Anything can be taken away in an instant. I learned to take care of others and give what you can back to your community.

When you moved from Peru to the U.S, you cried a lot and always daydreamed about going back to visit your loved ones. When you did visit Peru, instead of spending your days at the mall with your friends and cousins, you dedicated your time to helping those in need. Why is it so important for you to serve the community? 

Serving the community is extremely important to me. For starters, I have always been taught to give back to my community. I have always been taught to take care of the less fortunate and give whatever extra I have to someone who needs it more. I have also seen poverty in third-world countries and in the United States. Moving to the United States and going back to Peru made an immense impact on my decision to volunteer. In Peru, people go days without drinking water. The water that comes out of the sink cannot be ingested and getting bottled water is very difficult and expensive. Seeing this opened my eyes to how privileged and lucky I am. This made me want to give back to my community. It made me want to give these people in a third-world country the same privileges that others get here in the U.S, even if it was just for a couple of months. Giving others the same opportunities that I am given is extremely important to me. Seeing others smile and be thankful for something fills my heart with joy. Out of all the work I did, I believe teaching English to people in the Pueblos Jovenes helped me leave my mark. 

People in these Pueblos Jovenes often do not have access to education, especially learning English. Being able to teach the children at least a little bit and entertain them helped me leave my mark. I am not entirely sure what my plans for the future are quite yet. I am studying abroad in the Dominican Republic next semester for two weeks and want to continue studying abroad throughout my college career. 

What are your plans for the future? 

I am not entirely sure what my plans for the future are quite yet. I want to go on another mission trip to another third-world country and do more volunteer work. I am thinking about furthering my education after undergraduate and going into law school in order to become an International Human Rights lawyer. 

Please send a message to Latinx students and invite them to keep pursuing their dreams.

Personally, my dreams have always been to achieve higher education. Many of my family members attended college and I have always been taught and inspired to reach that goal. To me, college is more than just furthering education. It is an important time in your life where you find who you want to be for the rest of your life and what you want to do. It is when you decide how you’re going to leave your mark on the world. It is when your strive for success and greatness, even when times get tough. You become your own person and build your own goals. 

To all the Latinx students, I invite you to apply to the McDonald’s HACER National Scholarship. Without this scholarship, I would not have been able to fulfill my lifelong dream of attending college. Don’t be afraid to keep fighting for your dreams and to pursue higher education, even if it becomes difficult. Always know that you have a community to lean on for support and that it is ok to ask for help. So I leave you with the message to apply for this scholarship; it might help you reach your dreams- like it did mine.

The McDonald’s HACER National Scholarship was established in 2008, and since then, the program has awarded nearly $5 million in financial help to 46 students across the country. If like Francesca Maturo, you want to seek higher education, you can apply to the McDonald’s HACER National Scholarship to receive up to to $100,000 to help finance your tuition. The scholarship application period opens on October 7, 2019, and runs through February 5, 2020.