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### Breaking Barriers: A Graduate Student’s Journey to Overcome Obstacles

Celebrating the Achievements of 2024’s Lt. Rawlins Merit Scholarship Recipients

The forthcoming weeks will be dedicated to honoring the successes and narratives of the recipients of the 2024 Lt. Rawlins Merit Scholarship at Chico State. This distinguished award, recognized as one of the most substantial and esteemed at the university, highlights excellence in scholarship, extracurricular involvement, as well as exceptional academic and professional achievements.

Letty Mejia’s journey in the United States commenced at the age of four, facing the challenges of being an undocumented child, where numerous doors seemed closed to her aspirations. However, the implementation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) in 2012 marked a pivotal moment, granting her the opportunities she had long been denied. This initial ‘yes’ catalyzed a series of affirmative milestones in Mejia’s life. In 2015, legal entry was bestowed upon her due to her partner’s military service, and in 2021, she achieved U.S. citizenship. Concurrently, Mejia has been dedicated to ensuring that children in her community encounter open pathways rather than obstacles similar to those she once faced.

Reflecting on her past, Mejia vividly describes her transformation from feeling constrained to finally experiencing the freedom to pursue her dreams. A graduate of Southern Oregon University with a degree in early childhood development, she is now on the verge of completing her master’s degree in social work at Chico State, propelling her towards a career as a licensed clinical social worker.

Driven by her desire to serve as a role model for her children and to advocate for the youth in her community, Mejia is actively engaged in various roles, including internships, ambassadorships, and volunteer work. Her dedication to empowering others and providing support where needed is unwavering, exemplifying her commitment to making a positive impact.

The significance of the Rawlins award extends beyond financial assistance for Mejia. It symbolizes recognition and belief in her potential to contribute meaningfully to her profession and society at large. Nominated by her mentor, Professor Judy Vang, Mejia acknowledges the profound impact of individuals such as Rosemary White, Sharon Barrios, Susan Roll, Maia Illa, and Molly, who have played pivotal roles in her educational journey.

Embracing a hybrid educational model, Mejia values the hands-on experiences and connections fostered through in-person interactions at Chico State. Her expertise in working with immigrant families and children, coupled with her deep understanding of the complexities surrounding immigration, positions her as a compassionate advocate and healer in her field. Through her compelling PowerPoint presentations, Mejia sheds light on the challenges faced by immigrants and the nuanced approach required to address their unique needs.

In conclusion, Letty Mejia’s story is a testament to resilience, perseverance, and the transformative power of education. As she continues on her path to becoming a licensed clinical social worker, her unwavering dedication to her community and her passion for creating positive change serve as inspiring examples for all.

Author: Luke Reid (History, ‘04; Kinesiology, ‘09), Content Producer for University Communications.