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Beatríz Alcala: The Power of Higher Education

Beatriz was a good student but college seemed impossible. Then UNLV and the Millennium Scholarship came along.

People  |  Jun 28, 2011  |  By University Communications

Physical therapist o Las Vegas native o Millennium Scholar o First-generation graduate

Like most parents, Alcala's wanted better for their daughter. Neither of them graduated high school; they had to help support their younger siblings. They've worked decades now as a maid and cook, weathering the layoffs and furloughs that came with the vagaries of our tourism economy. Beatr?z was a good student -- maybe she'd go to college someday. That notion seemed impossible to her. Then UNLV and the Millennium Scholarship came along.

I grew up on 28th and Stewart, where there's a lot of gang violence. Where we used to live, I would hear gunshots going off. A lot of my classmates needed to be told there's something else other than the gangs.

UNLV's Center for Academic Enrichment and Outreach came to our middle school and started following us around and helping with study skills and time management. They helped with college applications. They told me about the Millennium Scholarship -- it was the push I needed through the door to college.

My college experience was work. I went to school Monday through Friday. I parked in the free parking lot. Then I worked every day from 2 to 8 p.m. Then I went home to study. I was focused.

Higher education is so important. It lets you become something better right here in Nevada. [The state] is not going to get anywhere if it doesn't start with the core of its residents. You have to invest in them.

It's comforting to know I don't have to rely on tourism. There's always going to be a need for me, for what I do.

The physical therapy program here really focuses on us staying here after graduation. As part of the program you work in underserved areas, really rural areas. They told us how Nevada needs us to make this state better.

I couldn't have gone on to physical therapy school if UNLV wasn't here for me. In Las Vegas, there are few PTs who see children, and families have a very tough time seeking treatment for their children.

My patients will say, "Wow, you went to UNLV, and you stayed here?" I'm like, "Yeah. I wouldn't imagine going anywhere else now."