September 23, 2017
Dr. Henry Schwerner and the Class of 1961
Michael Schwerner Memorial Scholarship
Dear Dr. Henry Schwerner and the Class of 1961,
My name is Elizabeth De Los Reyes and I am currently a junior majoring in Government with a minor in Latin American Studies. I am writing to express my sincere gratitude to you for making the Michael Schwerner Memorial Scholarship possible. I was thrilled to learn of my selection for this honor and I am deeply appreciative of your support.
I grew up in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas, a border town known for its Spanglish and extraordinary breakfast tacos. My hometown instilled in me a love for culture and language that I continue to develop today. Many of the topics that captured my interest revolved around the Valley’s history, from Gloria Anzaldúa’s writings that helped build a multicultural feminist movement to its past as a territory –– once part of Mexico, lost during the 1836 Texas Revolution and finally ceded to the United States in 1848. This town was my classroom and gave me a glimpse of the complexities of our world. My interests developed in high school during the hours I spent in after school Mock Trial Club practices, debating and analyzing cases, reveling in the intensity and unpredictability of argumentation. I looked forward to studying an intersection of my intellectual curiosities in college.
One of the things that initially attracted me to Cornell University and inspired me to transfer from the University of Rochester was the Government and Latin American Studies Program. The way in which both departments presented the multiplicity of interests and forms of power in American politics and foreign policy intrigued me. As an individual that grew up in a border town, I was able to witness how national security and bilateral policies with Mexico affected my community. Ultimately, this led me to believe that exploring the relationship between the United States and Latin America was critical for my understanding of domestic and foreign policy.
Although I have only been at Cornell for one month so far, I can sincerely say it has been extremely rewarding and promising. Outside of classes, I am involved in the Committee on U.S.-Latin American Relations as a Program Assistant. Besides researching and producing documents for CUSLAR’s blogs and print newsletter, I also coordinate events that aim to promote a greater understanding of Latin America and the Caribbean in the Ithaca community. I am also independently pursuing a research project centered around Operation Intercept of 1969. Operation Intercept was President Nixon’s unilateral attempt to block the flow of drugs from Mexico into the United States by interrupting traffic on the 2,000-mile line that separates the countries. This was an attempt to urge Mexico’s cooperation in antidrug efforts. Prior to transferring to Cornell, I had the incredible opportunity to travel to Mexico City and conduct archival research in support of my independent study. Many of my findings consisted of newspapers and correspondence between representatives of Mexico, demonstrating how United States’ unilateralism affected Mexican sovereignty. I hope to expand on my research and explore how U.S.-Mexico relations have changed since then.
I am excited to see what Cornell has in store for me and I am even more enthusiastic to contribute to its wonderful mission of “any person, any study.” I am fortunate that I have found a journey in Cornell, and I am extremely grateful that Dr. Henry Schwerner and the Class of 1961 has made it possible. Growing up in a border town presented its fair share of unique perspectives but it left me a desire to learn about the intricacies of our world and other people in it.
Pursuing higher education was a goal that was instilled in me and my siblings since we were in elementary school. The reality is that for many immigrant parents without educational background or fluency in English, opportunities for employment are scarce. A degree represented the idea that my sisters and I were free to pursue our passions and interests without merely focusing on making ends meet. By awarding me the Michael Schwerner Memorial Scholarship, you have lightened my financial burden which allows me to focus more on the most important aspect of school - learning. Your generosity has inspired me to be an active force for justice in my community, and for that I cannot thank you enough.
Elizabeth De Los Reyes