Purépechan Student Elizabeth Esteban Earns Full Scholarship to Harvard University

Lead Photo: Art by Stephany Torres for Remezcla
Art by Stephany Torres for Remezcla
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Imagine doing an interview over Zoom to attend the college of your dreams only to have your internet connection stop working right in the middle of it.

That’s exactly what happened to high school senior Elizabeth Esteban, a member of the Purépecha tribe originally from Michoacán, Mexico. Esteban, who lives in a mobile home in Mecca, California, with her parents, was speaking to the admissions department at Harvard University, one of eight Ivy League colleges in the United States, when her spotty internet service dropped the video call.

It’s a problem she’s had for the last year as she, like many other students across the nation, have been trying to attend class virtually because of the pandemic.

“I also received an internet device from the district and most of the time my screen was a circle just trying to reconnect,” Esteban told the NBC News affiliate in Palm Springs.

Luckily, a bad internet connection wasn’t enough to keep Esteban from her dreams. Neither was the fact that Harvard University’s Latino student population is 12.7%. Despite those statistics, Esteban was accepted to Harvard and given a full scholarship.

“I felt proud and excited, every sort of emotion, because I never would have believed that a person like me would be accepted to a prestigious university,” she said. “I’m part of an indigenous group that feels that women should…be the stereotypical stay-at-home mother. I just wanted to break those barriers.”

Cecilia Esteban, Elizabeth’s mother, is, of course, proud of her, too. Her first language is Purepecha, which is spoken by 200,000 people in the Michoacán area.

“Waking up early every morning and working hard in the fields is worth it,” she said. “Now, it’s even more worth it because my daughter has accomplished what she has dreamt about.”

Esteban’s goals now are to graduate from Harvard and run for U.S. Congress.