Gloria Itzel Montiel, 33, opens paper flowers, which she will hang on her car when she congratulates students from Santa Ana High School for receiving the scholarship that she created. Gloria gave a thousand dollars each to two students who won the scholarship from the high school she attended.
She says: ''The two scholarships were intended to honor the legacies of Mr. Bill Roberts (my high school English teacher) and Mr. Gerry Oxx, who influenced and helped me to push through the hardships associated with my undocumented status. It was because of them that I applied to Harvard and it was their support that helped me when in college.''
Gloria was a key figure in working with the Orange County Health Care Agency to allocate three million dollars to address COVID-19 disparates impacting Latin families across eight Zip Codes.
Gloria is a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipient and an essential worker who was born in the small town of Coacoyula, in Guerrero, Mexico. She migrated to the United States at the age of eight and navigated the education system as an undocumented student. In 2005, she became the first student from Santa Ana High School to be admitted to Harvard College, where she earned her bachelor's degree in English and American Literature and Language. She later became the first undocumented student to obtain a Master of Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and the first undocumented student to obtain a Ph.D. from the Claremont Graduate University. She currently serves as Senior Grant Writer at the AltaMed Institute for Health Equity and has led the acquisition of more than 18 million USD in grant funds for community-led programs in public health.
''At some point I decided I was going to go to Harvard. I didn't know how or why. I don't even know where I learned about Harvard, but I decided 'that's what I'm going to do'.''
'' told her I'm going to go to Harvard, and she just casually said, 'Girl, Mexican girls don't go to Harvard'.'' (Gloria remembers the conversation with a friend from debate in high school)