Two San Diego teens whose families migrated to the United States in search of a better life were accepted to Harvard University, and now, they dream of giving back to the communities who saw them grow.
Azul Marmolejo, who attends Southwest High School, said she was inspired by her grandmother to pursue her dreams and fulfill her goals.
With some screams of joy and tears of happiness, Marmolejo's family celebrated the moment she was accepted into the prestigious university in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Her parents recorded the moment when they read the letter of admission.
“As soon as I clicked the button, I saw the ‘Congratulations’ and everyone started screaming. I almost fainted. My vision became blurry and I just couldn’t believe what was happening at that moment,” the Harvard-bound teen told NBC 7 and Telemundo 20.
Marmolejo's family is originally from Tijuana, Mexico. The soon-to-be college student hopes to become a cardiologist and one day return to San Diego and contribute to her community.
Marmolejo dreams of opening a nonprofit foundation to support immigrants in providing medical services on both sides of the border, in the United States and Mexico.
“I want to come back to my community and be able to help patients like my grandmother who maybe suffered social, cultural, and social-economic barriers,” she said.
Marmolejo will be in good company with a fellow San Diegans when she heads to college on the East Coast.
Thang Ho, who attends Crawford High School, is originally from City Heights was also accepted to Harvard University. He is the first student in his high school to have been accepted in the last 10 years.
Ho said he remembers the day he got accepted vividly as he was with his mom and Zooming with his brother who was in California's Bay Area.
“I was opening up the portal and all of a sudden it [said], ‘Congrats, Welcome to Class of 2025 we are delighted to inform you, you got into Harvard,'” Ho said. “It was such a shock."
Ho said his family's future -- his mother and brother -- will improve with the opportunity he's been given to attend Harvard.
“I can’t even begin to [describe] how happy I am to finally repay my mother because she works nonstop for me,” he said.
Thang is an immigrant from Vietnam and will study computer science and psychology. Something he hopes to combine in the future to benefit the immigrant community in City Heights.
“I want to improve the mental health services and the quality and accessibility of those services to nearly all immigrants,” he told NBC 7 and Telemundo 20.
The two San Diego teens will head to Massachusetts in late summer where they will begin their first semester at Harvard. Both were able to earn scholarships that will cover their tuition.
Azul and Thang are part of the First Gen Scholars organization that helped them apply for these scholarships.