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Lucia Ortega

Need Level


Amount Needed


Merit Level


Class Standing


College GPA



Molecular Cellular Biology



Personal Statement

“Without balance, you have nothing.” My tennis coach has taught me many things, but this is by far the most important. He demonstrated it during my very first lesson, when he nearly almost slammed a ball right to my face. Although I quickly found my balance in tennis, it wasn’t as easy to find balance in the rest of my life, especially my cultural identity My family is Chinese, but I grew up American. I moved halfway around the world, from a busy city of Fuzhou, China, to a small town of Niskayuna in upstate New York. My parents worked long hours, seven days a week, so I spent a lot of time alone. Sunday nights became my favorite night of the week because it was the night my parents came home the earliest, and they would always take me to a nearby Chinese restaurant that served authentic dim sum and kung pao chicken. However, these nights were some of the only times when I was exposed to genuine Chinese culture, and despite my parent’s efforts, my Chinese identity slowly slipped away to be replaced with an American one. I was the so called ‘banana,’ yellow on the outside, but white in the inside. I have assimilated too well into American society, my mom said. I used to cringe at my dad’s thick accent as he thanked my teachers at parent-teacher conferences, but my dad was just as disappointed that my Chinese was stilted with a choppy American accent. He often remarked, “What kind of Chinese person doesn’t even speak Chinese?” In response, I would sometimes think, “Maybe I’m not Chinese.” When I was in fifth grade, my grandmother made me chow mai fun--assorted vegetables with thin rice noodles--for lunch everyday. I hated it. All of my friends had paper bag lunches, while I came to lunch with a square Tupperware container. They would unpack their bags, revealing peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with the crusts cut off, juice boxes, colorful fruit roll-ups, and goldfish crackers. I would lift up the lid from my container as slowly as possible, just as you would gradually uncap a shaken soda bottle in the futile hope that it wouldn’t erupt but no matter how slowly I moved, our entire lunch table would always be assaulted by the fishy stench of warm imitation crab meat. Eventually, I became so embarrassed that I stopped bringing a packed lunch to school; resorting instead to the free cafeteria food. It didn’t even matter to me that I actually liked chow mai fun. I was so focused on not being Chinese when I should have been focused on simply being myself.

Student Info







Marital Status:

U.S. Citizen

First Generation:


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High School GPA:

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Open to Mentorship:


High School Name:



Niskayuna High School