Video captured the emotional moment a student and her family found out she was accepted into Harvard University — only the fourth Santa Ana High School student to get in.

The room erupted with screams when Cielo Echegoyen and her sisters saw the word “congratulations.” She bursts into tears, burying her face in her hands as the family embraces.

Getting into the prestigious Ivy League university is a feat in itself. Only about 5% of applicants are accepted.

And according to administrators at the Santa Ana school, the odds are stacked against the majority of their students, with more than 80% of them living below the poverty line.

For Echegoyen, Harvard has always been her first choice, and she says she has used her personal obstacles to motivate her.

“My mom is a seamstress who currently has an injury — she’s not working. My dad was detained by immigration my junior year in high school. Thankfully, he came back home,” Echegoyen said. “I know how many obstacles there are in our community.”

Echegoyen’s diagnosis with a chronic progressive tissue disease and her grandparents’ battles with cancer led her to pursue medicine, pushing for a spot at Harvard Medical School.

She hopes to study molecular and cell biology, eventually graduating to become an oncologist.

Echegoyen credits her mentor and her family for guiding her, and she hopes to be able to give back to her community too.

“If you are confident in yourself, if you’re confident in your capabilities, and you remind yourself that your challenges in your life only add to your story, anything is possible.” Echegoyen said.


By Arlene Huff

Arlene Huff is the founding member of Golden State Online. Before that She was a general assignment reporter. A native Californian, she graduated from the University of California with a degree in medical anthropology and global health. She currently lives in Los Angeles.

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