McDonald’s HACER National Scholarship Series, Featuring Lorena Patino

Lorena Patino Hacer
Photo Courtesy Lorena Patino

The Oxford dictionary describes the American dream as “the ideal by which equality of opportunity is available to any American, allowing the highest aspirations and goals to be achieved.” Despite your race, ethnicity or origin, if you live in the United States you have the right to a brilliant future and to become your best self.

The Hispanic and Latinx communities are the largest minority group in the country, but unfortunately, the opportunities to succeed can be scarce. Parents often live with the burden of not being able to help their kids attend college, and students may feel that winning a scholarship might be mission impossible. Luckily, McDonald’s is paving the way to higher education for even more Hispanic students and recently expanded the McDonald’s HACER National Scholarship to give our students the opportunity to reach their higher education goals and live the American dream.

After the expansion of the scholarship program, from five to 30 winners, the company can build even more new opportunities for growth and educational attainment within the Hispanic community. One of those winners, is Lorena Patino, an immigrant student from Medellin, Colombia, that knows that hard work pays off. Thanks to her academic achievement and community involvement, Patino could transform her financial need in happiness and relief after the McDonald’s HACER National Scholarship awarded her with $25 thousand dollars to help finance her tuition.

BELatina had the honor of interviewing Lorena Patino and learn about her life, aspirations and most importantly how she became one of the latest recipients of the scholarship. 

How did you hear about the HACER Scholarship? What motivated you to apply? 

I first heard about the McDonald’s HACER National Scholarship in the beginning of my Senior year of high school at a USHLI Student Leadership Summit. We were a very predominantly Hispanic population, so the auditorium was full with students interested in the education summit event. All of the speakers from CoolSpeak, were amazing and it seemed like they loved what they were doing. After receiving some initial information at the event, I went online to mcdonalds.com/hacer and started the application process. What intrigued me the most was how well this scholarship fit my character which is unique to my Hispanic culture. I felt like McDonald’s was committed to the education of Hispanic students like myself.

Who is your role model? Why? 

My role model is my mom, She is the person I go to for anything and everything. She’s my soulmate and my greatest inspiration. She brought me to this country by herself when I was six and although it was easy for me to assimilate into a new society, for her it took her years upon years to get used to this American lifestyle. I thank her every day for the sacrifices that she experienced in order for me to have the opportunity of a future.

What do you do to overcome the challenges you faced in the past, and how did this change you?

The challenges I overcame, which inflicted a great deal of pain onto me, were suppressed by the stunning people I surrounded myself with. They shared their positivity with me every day. I moved away from those who didn’t understand what had happened to me and I created, in a way, a better support system for myself. I kept myself occupied, which wasn’t hard to do, but when it did come down to accepting my pain, I looked at my experience with a positive outlook. I didn’t let this person who caused me pain to build fear or hate within me. It changed me in the best way possible. From then on, I was independent and resilient at everything. I thrive from this painful incident and I would love to raise awareness and help other victims feel like they are not alone.

What did your mom say when you received the email notifying you were a scholarship recipient?

The first thing my mom did after hearing that I was a winner was call everyone back home in Colombia. She shared the news with my grandma who had been praying for me since I first told them I was a semi-finalist. Being the first generation to go to college in America was so overwhelming because I am, in a way, representing the next generations. With the McDonald’s HACER National Scholarship, both my mom and I felt that we were already one step closer to achieving our goal, nuestras metas, and that to me was everything I ever wanted: to make her proud.

What are you going to study? Why did you choose your career? 

I’m currently majoring in Early Childhood Education and minoring in Spanish with an ESL endorsement. I chose this career because I’ve come to love all aspects of becoming an educator. I see myself being gratified by teaching our future generations, and that to me is the best stimulant to have. Going to school in places like Colombia, Florida and Illinois made me realize that it really does depend on where you live in, but the school system, and especially the teachers who invoke students to expand their thoughts and grow as individuals, play the biggest role in our society. 

Lorena Patino Hacer
Photo Courtesy Lorena Patino

I am currently attending the University of Illinois in Champaign Urbana. To me, this was probably the hardest choice I’ve ever made, but I know that this school was the best fit for me. Leaving home at the age of 18 was seen in a way as “disowning” my family, but I wholeheartedly told my mom that this is the best decision I could do for my future. I chose this university because I truly wanted an all-American experience. I fell in love with the campus and the community. I decided to stay in Illinois because my future career goals are here, in the Chicago Public Schools, and in the districts where I first learned to speak English. Illinois has been my home state for only 5 years but I love and cherish every bit of it.

What are your plans for the future? 

My long-term goal is to become an elementary school principal after gaining some experience as a Pre-K teacher. For now, I’m hoping to graduate college in 2023 and teach in under-developed countries in South America or stay in the area of Chicago and work with Pre-K to first-grade students. I’m looking forward to doing this because I know that I will be making an impact, not only the little kid, but also to our society.

Please send a message to all the Latinx community living in the US that wants to have a promising future like you.

To my Latino community here in the States, I can only say how thankful I am to have opportunities like these. Winning the McDonald’s HACER National Scholarship was an aspiration like no other, but I wouldn’t have been able to win or even qualify to apply if it wasn’t for my roots. Never forget your roots! Because they are what make you, you. Do whatever your heart desires and make sure you do it with passion and perseverance. As easy as it is to say follow your dreams and don’t stop dreaming and conquering all of them, most importantly don’t let society place you in a box where you don’t belong. Persist and grow. Never stop learning, and if they say you can’t do it, make sure you prove them wrong. As a community, we have to demonstrate how powerful our voices are, and we have to stand together to show that we are more than a stereotype. To say the least, do what you think will make you happy and keep trying to find that happiness until you do.