Betsabeth Oropeza, an international relations major with minors in French and diversity and community engagement, has been awarded the 2021 College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences Staff Association Scholarship. Receiving this honor will not only help her achieve her goals, but, she hopes, inspire others as well.

Each year, the Virginia Tech College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences Staff Association supports students by awarding a scholarship. A committee selects recipients based on a strong academic record, community service or extracurricular activities, and a personal essay.          

“Working in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences as a staff member means that each year I have the opportunity to serve on the selection committee for the scholarship,” said LaTawnya Burleson, advancement associate senior in the college and president of the association. “We had many amazing applicants, but Betsabeth really stood out. She embodies Virginia Tech’s motto of Ut Prosim (That I May Serve). The entire Staff Association is proud we can assist such a deserving student in her academic and campus experience.”

Oropeza was born in Venezuela and moved to the United States when she was 13. She left behind her mother to live with her father, whom she had not seen since she was 3 years old. She said both her parents raised her with the belief that education could take her anywhere. They always emphasized the importance of higher education, particularly for an immigrant. 

Moving to the United States was an adjustment. She needed to rebuild a relationship with her father, adapt to U.S. culture, attend a new school, and learn a new language. But she was on a mission. “Not even the language barrier could stop me from my dreams,” Oropeza said.

Now a senior, Oropeza works two jobs to cover her housing and tuition, as well as to send money back to her family in Venezuela. 

Yet she still finds time to be active in the community. She is particularly passionate about being a leader, a skill she learned while mentoring freshmen during high school. 

“I believe that to be a leader, one must convey inspiration and purpose by sacrificing time for others,” Oropeza said. “I have had countless leadership opportunities that have strengthened my interest in communicating with others and in advocating for inclusivity and diversity.

“It is so good to be nice and respect other cultures,” she added. “It means so much to individuals to prove you care and are bringing awareness to promote diversity. The more you educate yourself, the better you can advocate for people and fight for social justice.”

Oropeza finds being a part of the college community rewarding, and her ability to speak Spanish and an intermediate level of French and English has allowed her to serve in meaningful ways.

To explore cultures while connecting to her own, Oropeza joined the Filipino American Student Association and has since become its president. In addition, she became an student ambassador for the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, and in 2020 she became vice president of the Bamboom Dance Crew. 

“Being a leader is second nature,” she said. “I don’t find it stressful. It’s a break from life.”

When Oropeza learned she had won the scholarship, she was overjoyed. 

“It was quite emotional,” she said. “Through this scholarship, I can help release some of the financial strain on my father and me and become someone he can always be proud of.”

Written by Mary Szczerban, a communication sciences and social inquiry major.