Zayanna Serrano LatinX Thriving Scholar
“Being able to afford my dream university lets me show other young Latinas that it’s possible to get into higher education and that there is financial support along the way,” says Zayanna Serrano, a second-year political science major at UCI who received an UCI-OC Alliance’s scholarship. Steve Zylius / UCI

The UCI-OC Alliance’s purpose is to advance UCI as a Latino-thriving university through engaging and supporting Latino students, staff and faculty. One of the ways the alliance accomplishes this is via its UCI-OC Alliance’s scholarship program. Recipients are selected based on their accomplishments as high-achieving undergraduates who have demonstrated their commitment to actively and positively promoting a thriving Latino community.

The yearlong, $5,000 scholarships are supported by local organizations such as the Pacific Life Foundation, Monster Energy Cares, Kia America, Experian, the Edwards Lifesciences Foundation and the Corporate Directors Roundtable of Orange County. Last year, 22 UCI students got them; the funds are applied toward tuition, fees, housing and other academic expenses. This year’s recipients are being chosen and notified as the fall quarter commences.

Here are the stories of two UCI-OC Alliance’s scholarship recipients from 2022-23 in their words.

Camryn Santos

Camryn Santos
“This scholarship has given me the support I need to feel as if my career dreams are achievable,” Camryn Santos says. Photo courtesy of Camryn Santos

Santos is a second-year public health sciences major who has her sights set on a career in the healthcare field. Along with receiving the Inclusive Excellence Latinx Thriving Alliance Scholarship, she is a Regents’ Scholar. Based on academic excellence, the Regents’ Scholarship is one of the most prestigious awarded to UC undergraduates and provides $5,000 a year for Santos’ four years at UCI. The Rancho Cucamonga native is the first in her family to attend college. Santos had her choice of UC campuses and selected UCI, she says, for its brilliant academics, first-rate facilities, beautiful landscape and modern look.

“This scholarship has given me the support I need to feel as if my career dreams are achievable. I cannot be thankful enough for the chance and ability given to me to attend such a great school with countless educational resources and benefits. The huge amount it costs to attend a university for solely one year made me feel as if maybe college wasn’t the right choice for me. However, because of the UCI-OC Alliance’s scholarship, college became something that seemed achievable if I just applied myself and searched for other ways to financially support myself. My dream to attend medical school after undergraduate school is scary in itself, let alone thinking about the cost of eight years of school. However, this scholarship taught me that it’s very much possible for a girl like me, someone with not even $10 to her name. It has opened my mind and allowed me to see that it is possible to achieve the dream you want as long as you have the determination to expand yourself and find other resources, because there are generous people out there with giving hearts.

“Currently, I’m majoring in public health sciences on the pre-health track to medical school (fingers crossed). I was always interested in becoming a doctor. However, my interest in the healthcare system was really piqued my junior year of high school. I took an AP research class at my school, and my group decided to look at affirmative action and its legalities in California. During my research, I uncovered the severity of mistreatment toward Black women during childbirth, as they are four times more likely to die during labor for unexplainable reasons. And it was at that moment that I found my motivation to become a doctor. I want to bridge the gap for minorities in the healthcare system and create a relationship where patients feel heard, understood and like they can actually communicate with their doctors.

“I am proud to be an Anteater in many ways, but one I admire the most is the Anteater commitment to public service. I look up to this mission and am proud to be an Anteater who upholds that commitment.”

Zayanna Serrano

Serrano is a second-year political science major committed to community service. In her hometown of Downey, she was vice chair of the city’s Youth Commission, and she recently joined the California College Corps and the board of the Orange County Hispanic Youth Chamber of Commerce. A first-generation college student, Serrano chose UCI, she says, for its excellent academics and to stay close to her family. As an undergraduate, she plans to pursue an internship in Washington, D.C., through the UCDC program. And upon graduating, Serrano is considering law school on the East Coast. In addition to the Inclusive Excellence Latinx Thriving Alliance support, she received a California Latino Legislative Caucus Foundation Scholarship in 2022 for $5,000.

“As a child of Mexican immigrant parents and grandparents, I have been a translator ever since I learned English for my grandparents. I never viewed translating as a chore but as a part of life. As I grew older and started my involvement in mock trials, symposiums and research internships, I began to see the deep-rooted importance of translating not only language but academic jargon. Understanding what is going on in our legal system, politics and the academic sphere is very important. That’s why I chose to be a political science major, as the education I’m receiving will allow me to help others – no matter their education level – understand these subjects, whether the barrier is language or academic understanding. Knowledge must be accessible to everyone, and that’s what I hope to accomplish throughout my career in policymaking and legal decisions.

“My career goal is to work in the realm of either politics or law, as there is a lack of Latinas in those fields. Later, I hope to become a professor, as I have found teaching to be a passion of mine in guiding the future change-makers of society.

“Overall, I would like to thank the UCI-OC Alliance for the opportunity to have access to education through this scholarship. It means a lot to me to have the funds to attend UCI as the price of tuition has caused financial strain on my family. It wasn’t long ago that my parents were teary-eyed, discussing going into their retirement funds to help me pay for college, as they know it has been a lifelong dream of mine to continue into higher education. As a child of immigrant parents, it hurts to have those discussions, as my job has always been to add to their retirement funds, not to remove.

“But with this scholarship, I have received the opportunity to relieve the financial strain and continue at one of the best academic institutions in the nation. The money allowed me to pay off tuition and not take out loans, making it all the more possible to attend graduate school. Being able to afford my dream university lets me show other young Latinas that it’s possible to get into higher education and that there is financial support along the way, so they don’t have to shy away from these institutions.”

If you want to learn more about supporting this or other activities at UCI, please visit the Brilliant Future website at 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 UCI-OC Alliance plays a vital role in the success of the campaign. To contribute, go to