My Scholarship Story – Lizeth Patena

My Scholarship Story – Lizeth Patena

Lizeth Patena graduated from Salinas High School in 2020 during the pandemic. She participated in Girls’ Health in Girls’ Hands (GHGH) and received GHGH Women’s Fund Scholarships to help her achieve her academic and career goals, graduating from CSUMB as a Liberal Studies major with a concentration in bilingual education. She shared her story at the May 17, 2024 Women’s Fund Luncheon, where she received a standing ovation in recognition of her many accomplishments.

Good morning, My name is Lizeth Patena Zarazua. I am pursuing a major in Liberal Studies with a concentration in bilingual education at California State University Monterey Bay. I want to express my sincere gratitude and appreciation for the Girls Health In Girls Hands Women’s Fund scholarship.This scholarship has been a significant source of support for me during college. I am truly grateful for the financial assistance it has provided me. It has allowed me to focus more on my studies without worrying about financial burdens.

Overcoming Obstacles

I am the first person in my family to attend college, and as a first-generation, low-income student, it has been a challenging journey. Growing up, I faced many obstacles in school, particularly, a language barrier. I couldn’t speak or understand English. I vividly recall feeling frustrated and crying because of my inability to comprehend the language.

In second grade, I couldn’t communicate with my teacher because she only spoke English. Because of my struggles with learning the new language, my second-grade teacher believed I suffered from dyslexia, but that was not the case.
I was placed in support reading programs to help me learn English, and by the end of fourth grade, I was able to comprehend and speak the language. It was through perseverance and determination that I was able to overcome the language barrier.

In my junior year of high school, I had the opportunity to participate in women’s empowerment programs. It was during a leadership program for young women that I was introduced to the Girls Health in Girls Hands organization. Their mission and program immediately resonated with me, and I was drawn to their work.

I have fond memories of attending their annual summits, which provided me with the inspiration to pursue my dreams with confidence. One activity that has really stuck with me was a reflection exercise. We looked into a mirror. Many of us usually see the negative sides of ourselves, and we were asked to notice our positive qualities and share them with the group. This was very impactful and helped me embrace and love myself for who I am.

These past four years, the scholarship has helped me significantly. It has allowed me to pay for transportation, purchase textbooks, purchase other materials and helped me cover any other expenses. I did not have to worry about purchasing textbooks for school. My only concern was understanding the textbook to succeed in college. I didn’t need to work a full-time job like most students. Because of the scholarship, I was able to work a part-time job without being concerned about covering college expenses.

Paying it Forward

During my time in college, I have been paying back the support I have received by volunteering in my community. I am mentoring a middle school student at the First Tee of Monterey County. Apart from this, I am also mentoring four first-generation college students through a mentorship program at CSUMB.

During this last year of college, I am also a student teacher at a local elementary school working on obtaining my teaching credential. As I reflect on my time as a college student, I am filled with gratitude for this opportunity. It is because of generous people like you that tomorrow, May 18, 2024, I will be the first person in my family not only to graduate from college, but to graduate with honors.


I’d like to thank my family including my sister, Cynthia, who’s currently a freshman at CSUMB, whose here with me today, for their support. It is with great joy I share with all of you that starting in August, I will be accomplishing my lifelong dream of becoming a teacher. I will be working with the Alisal Union School District school as a fifth-grade teacher at Fremont Elementary in Salinas.

Once again, I am extremely thankful for each one of you. Your investment in my education has significantly impacted my life, allowing me to further my education and helping me fulfill my dreams.

I look forward to impacting the lives of the children and families in our community by encouraging them to dream big, just like you have encouraged me. Thank you so much. – Lizeth Patena