This year’s recipient of the Breitling College Visit Award, Sofia MakePeace, is a remarkable young scholar who has worked tirelessly to achieve her goals in the face of major adversity. A recent graduate of Ernest Righetti High School in Santa Maria, Sofia was selected for this annual scholarship designed to fund out-of-state college visits for female high school students from Santa Barbara County.
The Breitling College Visit Program was created in 1994 by Jacqueline Breitling, who was inspired to create a fund that would encourage young women to visit the universities of their dreams. The award is now managed by the Santa Barbara Foundation and continues to cover the costly expenses associated with visiting out-of-state universities.
Sofia and her older sister escaped an abusive household as children and were raised by a single mother who worked two full time jobs. From a young age, Sofia excelled in school and as a pianist, and participated in extracurricular activities such as competitive horseback riding and volunteering at her church. When Sofia was 10 years old, her mother was injured on the job and could no longer work. A few years later, the family lost their home, and was forced to move around from place to place. Sofia decided to give up many of her extracurriculars and get a part time job in order to help support her family.
Despite the obstacles she has had to overcome, Sofia has an extraordinarily positive outlook on life. “I choose not to be a victim, but a conqueror,” she explains. “I possess love for all the pieces of my life that have resulted in the ‘me’ I am today.” Her optimism and motivation is exemplified through her successes – even while working night shifts, Sofia was able to maintain an outstanding Grade Point Average and participate in her high school’s Early Academic Outreach Program (EAOP).
“Sofia is mature beyond her age, caring, strong willed and compassionate. She is well liked and respected by her peers and teachers,” said Alma Miranda, the EAOP College Site Coordinator at Ernest Righetti High School. “It is absolutely impressive how she has been able to balance it all, stay positive in moments of hardship, and continue to excel academically.”
Since beginning high school, Sofia had dreamt of attending Colombia University and studying to become a doctor. The Breitling College Visit Award gave her the opportunity to travel to the East Coast and visit Colombia, Yale, Harvard, MIT, Tufts and Brown. “Having the opportunity to visit several of my top colleges was an unforgettable experience that would never have been possible without the Breitling Award,” explained Sofia.
But for Sofia, winning the Breitling College Visit Award meant so much more than just being able to visit her top colleges. “I’m very grateful for the opportunity, especially because it’s one that I never thought I would have, given my situation. It was the first scholarship I had ever won, and it was kind of an eye opener, like ‘Okay, I do have help out there, I do have people rooting for me.’ It helped me realize that I really can do everything I’ve always dreamed of doing.”
Ultimately, Sofia chose to attend the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). She described how her visit to the East Coast was beneficial, despite not choosing to attend one of those schools. Sofia starts at UCLA this fall, and all of us at the Santa Barbara Foundation can’t wait to watch her succeed in the next chapter of her life.
To learn more about this scholarship please contact Deanna Vallejo, Community Investments Associate, at email@example.com.