Her childhood experiences of navigating through an English-speaking country when she spoke only Spanish have given Andrea Kristell Medrano an appreciation for the power of language. Only 5 when she came to the U.S. from Mexico with her mother, the 21-year-old says she has learned the “importance of knowing and being fluent in more than one language. It’s how we connect with other people.”
Medrano describes her introduction to English as “strange” because the class for English language learners in which she was placed had very little structure. Medrano credits the daily interactions with “incredible teachers and staff,” as well as the extra support from her U.S.-born stepfather, as the keys to becoming fluent. “It was difficult,” she says, “but possible, thanks to the help I received at school and at home.”
A graduate of Gabrielino High School in San Gabriel, Medrano is now in her senior year at UCI, pursuing a double major in education sciences and Spanish so that she can become an academic counselor in low-income communities. “Having to learn a new language and the encouragement I got along the way from teachers, principals and counselors have inspired me to seek a career where I will impact children,” Medrano says.
Making that goal more achievable are two scholarships she received in the spring of 2018: the Humanities Associates Endowment for the International Center for Writing & Translation and the Hannah J. Caldwell Endowed Undergraduate Student Award.
“I was very excited and overjoyed to learn that I had been chosen for these scholarships,” Medrano says. “This financial assistance means so much to me and my future. Without this kind of help, first-generation students like me would not be able to do as much as we do. This is further motivation to continue to uphold the values and work ethic that these awards represent and is another validation of my decision to come to UCI.”
On a visit to campus during her senior year of high school, Medrano liked the setting and felt it was a place where she could fit in. Since becoming a member of the Anteater family, she has found academic, financial and mental health resources to help students like her transition to and remain in college. “There’s nothing that UCI doesn’t have,” she says, “which lets us remember why we’re here in the first place.”
Guided by her desire to become a counselor, Medrano is taking advantage of the university’s many extracurricular activities involving children and language. She served as co-president of the UCI Bilingual Teacher Student Association; was a research assistant at the campus’s Human Abilities in Bilingual Language Acquisition Lab and El Areyto Lab for Second Language Acquisition & Bilingualism; and interned for Global Connect in a high school dual immersion class.
“It’s always important to remember to help others and share the knowledge that we have in order to make this world a better place,” Medrano says.
Publicly launched on Oct. 4, 2019, the Brilliant Future campaign aims to raise awareness and support for UCI. By engaging 75,000 alumni and garnering $2 billion in philanthropic investment, UCI seeks to reach new heights of excellence in student success, health and wellness, research and more. The Schools of Humanities and Education play a vital role in the success of the campaign. Learn more by visiting http://education.uci.edu and http://humanties.uci.edu.