Scholar Story: Ellen
Chicago, IL

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As the daughter of two successful Mexican-born parents, Ellen knows the value of hard work and determination under adversity. Her mother, Marta, married her father and left her family in Mexico to move to the United States when she was just a young woman.

EllenTo support their family and pay for their children’s education, Ellen's parents started a property trust company in Illinois, renovating, renting and selling properties. As the director of a community coalition for Hispanics and a K-3 bilingual teacher, Marta is very influential in the community and serves as an inspiration to Ellen. Ellen decided to honor her mother by writing about her mother’s influence on her and their community, when she learned about the Lincolnland Legends essay contest sponsored by Illinois Dollars for Scholars three days before the contest deadline.

In her essay, Ellen wrote that her mother has always worked tirelessly for her family and for the community. Marta would get up at 5 a.m. to clean the house and get her children ready for school, and then drove to school to work a full day teaching. After school, Marta directed an after-school program serving 53 students. In the evening, after going home to check on her kids, Marta would swing by the rental properties the family owns to check on tenant needs.

“My mom has motivated a lot of people to work hard and pursue what they deserve. She inspires them to look for more as families living in the United States. When a tenant is laid off and can’t afford to pay their rent, she hires them to work on properties that our family owns so my parents don’t have to evict them,” said Ellen.

As a teacher, Marta was supportive of Ellen and her siblings’ education, putting in the time and effort to help them with homework they don’t understand. She always encouraged her children to go to college. Marta also included Ellen in the family business, so Ellen will someday be able to run the business.

After spending three straight days perfecting her essay about Marta, Ellen drove twenty-five minutes to the nearest post office open late in the evening and shipped the essay via Express Mail so it would arrive on time. She was honored to win the essay contest and receive the $10,000 scholarship.

“The housing economy has been so bad and my parents been having a lot of trouble selling their properties. They also support my grandmother living in Mexico. Receiving this scholarship takes a huge burden off of them,” said Ellen.

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