You Can’t Let Hardships Define You: Dream Award Scholar Liselle Diaz
By Pam Carlson
“Mindset is a choice,” says Liselle Diaz, a University of St. Thomas marketing major who grew up with a mother who struggled with addiction and an absent father. “External factors in your life can be unfair, but you have to approach each day with a sense of gratitude and appreciation and use that to fuel the future. You can’t let hardships define you.”
The Minnesota college student carries a 3.95 cumulative grade point average; next spring, she will be the first in her family to graduate from college. “Being the first one in my family to attend college has always been my biggest dream, but I have had to figure out how to pay for it entirely by myself,” Liselle says.
Scholarship America’s Dream Award will lighten Liselle’s financial burden and allow her more time for studying and participating in extracurricular activities — including the Delta Sigma Pi professional fraternity for business majors, which has helped her learn important lessons that aren’t always taught in the classroom.
“It has provided great opportunities for me to develop my professional skills,” Liselle says. “Even things like understanding the difference between business casual vs. formal wear, how to shake hands, and what it means to act professionally.”
Liselle has a fulltime paid internship this summer at Brandpoint, where she works in digital marketing. “I’ve learned about marketing on social media and through email. It is real and meaningful work I’ll be able to put on my resume.”
Her goal after graduating is to work for a nonprofit organization that promotes either racial or climate justice, seeking a purposeful career that helps people and communities whose voices aren’t always heard. While Liselle is half Puerto Rican, she didn’t grow up speaking Spanish. She started studying it in school to learn about her culture.
“Language barriers are a big issue,” she says. “I would be honored to help with that in any way I can. As someone who has felt underrepresented my entire life, I want to serve others whose voices go unheard. I want to use my marketing skills to help people and feel like I’m doing something good every day when I wake up.”
Liselle’s grandmother began raising her when she was seven, due to her mother’s struggles with drug and alcohol addiction. Her mother relapsed multiple times while she was in middle school and high school, and education helped her get through.
“Every day when I went to school I felt more confident,” she says. “Taking my education seriously was in my control. I knew it was how I could control my future.”
“Liselle is a uniquely outstanding student,” says her academic advisor Aaron Sackett. “I have taught approximately 1,000 marketing students at the University of St. Thomas since 2009, and Liselle is easily in the top two percent academically. Furthermore, her academic prowess is matched by maturity beyond her years and a cooperative spirit, making her a truly special young adult. It is a testament to her sheer will and determination that she has been able to accomplish so much. Liselle is an inspiration.”
Professor Sackett’s mentorship of Liselle has been a source of support during her college career as well. “I’m so thankful I’ve got someone who is always willing to help me in any way,” she says.
Her grandmother is always there for her too. “No matter what she’s so proud of me,” Liselle says. “It means the world.”
Liselle is grateful for the Scholarship America Dream Award, and already looking toward the day when she can pay the gift forward. “I thank you for investing in my future and I will continue to work hard to achieve my goals. I am honored to have my hard work and resilience recognized and I am deeply appreciative of your support. I hope one day I will be able to generously give back to my community as you do.”