UCI senior Alyssa Carrillo
The Rose Hills Foundation Scholarship “not only alleviated the hardships of financing my education,” says UCI senior Alyssa Carrillo, “but also encouraged me to pursue my seemingly far-fetched dreams of making an impact on the global community.” Steve Zylius / UCI

Alyssa Carrillo first toured the UCI campus as a high school senior. It was a walk to remember. She was delighted by the welcoming environment and the palpable buzz of student energy.

In addition, both she and her parents were comforted by the nationally recognized safety of the city of Irvine. UCI also offered Carrillo more financial aid than any other university she was considering. It was a no-brainer: UCI was where she was meant to be.

Now a senior in biological sciences, Carrillo is accomplishing what she had set out to do. “My ultimate wish for my undergraduate experience was to learn about myself and to figure out my place as a successful person in this world,” the Sylmar native says.

Carrillo credits one class for being particularly influential in shaping her view of herself and for teaching her life skills and personal leadership.

“I discovered my value as an individual and as a member of our global society in Valerie Sheppard’s Living 101 course,” she says. “This class helped me to believe in myself and to find happiness in the face of any obstacle.

“Living 101 taught me to see life as a journey rather than a road map, so I have come to terms with not knowing exactly what the future holds.”

Carrillo is working as a research assistant through the Minority Science Programs, an orchestrated effort by the National Institutes of Health and UCI’s School of Biological Sciences to increase the number of underrepresented minorities in biomedical research careers.

“I’m currently studying the prevalence and transfer of antibiotic-resistant genes in bacteria that exist in aquatic environments,” she says. “In my final year at UCI, I’ll be attending national research conferences to present my work, and I’ll be applying to Ph.D. programs in biomedical science.”

Carrillo has always had a passion for biology and medicine, and conducting research has intensified her desire to be a scientist. She hopes to someday contribute to the advancement of preventive medicine worldwide. “I believe it’s essential that we invest more in treating patients individually and holistically to promote stronger communities and brighter futures,” Carrillo says.

Meanwhile, she volunteers as a COPE Health Scholar at St. Joseph Hospital in Orange, where she provides basic patient care alongside nurses and physicians.

Last year, Carrillo was awarded the Rose Hills Foundation Scholarship for undergraduates planning careers in science or engineering. “This was the greatest amount of financial aid I’ve ever received, and it allowed me to focus on improving myself – through research and volunteer work – instead of paying the bills,” she says.

Carrillo is one of many grateful UCI students who benefit from philanthropic support. These scholarships partly cover university expenses and enable them to engage in activities outside the classroom – such as research or community service – that enrich their UCI experience and help them succeed after graduating. UCI provides nearly 1,000 scholarships funded by generous donors, giving students more than $4 million in academic aid.

For Carrillo, the Rose Hills Foundation Scholarship was a vote of confidence, a reminder that she has support in her ventures.

“It not only alleviated the hardships of financing my education,” she says, “but also encouraged me to pursue my seemingly far-fetched dreams of making an impact on the global community.”