This Giving Tuesday, Support Students Like Elena
Taylor Swift, Elena’s Gallegos’ favorite artist, sings the lyrics “if you never bleed, you’re never gonna grow” in her song The 1. Elena says she finds courage in these words when facing an unknown future. The 2023 Coronado High School graduate and Bronze Scholarship recipient is learning as she goes, experiencing all the challenges and joys of her freshman year at UNM in Albuquerque.
Coming to Albuquerque and a big city school from a tiny rural town has been disorienting, but it is not an unfamiliar experience for Elena. After attending a small elementary school in rural Coyote, Elena and her family moved to Los Alamos where she started 7th grade.
“I knew no one and it was a pretty tough time for me,” said Elena. “After the first day of school, I pretended to be sick for the rest of the week.” Eventually Elena became involved in student council and by the time she finished her 8th grade year, she loved school and was surrounded by great friends. And then, Elena’s life shifted once again. Her grandmother was sick and her family decided to return to her hometown to be closer to family.
Back at her first school district, Elena once again felt out of place. “My friends from elementary school had all become closer while I wasn’t there. I had to learn how to fit in again.” Getting involved in the Business Professionals of America group helped her with some of these fears, including public speaking. “They really helped me come out of my shell.”
Elena says that while painful, those coming of age experiences helped her prepare for her first year at UNM, where she is enrolled in the College of Nursing. A few of her classmates from Coronado High School are there with her and she’s made some new friends too.
“We’ve just started a family dinner night,” said Elena. “Every Monday we cook together.” They’ve made stuffed sopapillas and personal pizzas, so far. Elena also plans to participate in the LANL Scholars peer-mentoring program at UNM.
Elena loves her home state, but she dreams of seeing the world as a traveling nurse when she graduates. She’d love to work in Hawaii, Boston, or New York, one day.
“I can see myself living in New Mexico full-time after a while though,” Elena said. She’s very close to her parents and her older sister, who is also at UNM.
“They’re proud and happy for us to go out into the world,” Elena said.
Elena spoke with us from the UNM campus. This semester she’s enrolled in health science communications and she’s minoring in sign language.
Elena also receives the Opportunity Scholarship from the state, but she says her LANL Scholarship helps relieve the additional costs that can quickly balloon for students. In addition to expensive textbooks, she lives on-campus in the dorms and has the meal plan, all of which her LANL Scholarship can be used to pay for.
Your donation to the Los Alamos Employees’ Scholarship Fund is critical to our mission of helping students create a better future for themselves and their families. 100% of your donation will go directly to scholarships for students like Elena. Please consider making a donation of any amount TODAY!