Chicago Tribune Shout Out

Read the Chicago Tribune's Shout Out with College Scholar Daniel Parra who was recently named Male Scholar of the Year by the Hispanic Scholarship Fund.

Shout Out: Daniel Parra, Maine East grad and national scholar

Jennifer JohnsonPioneer Press
April 25, 2018; 4:25 pm
 

Maine East High School graduate and Niles resident Daniel Parra was recently named Male Scholar of the Year by the Hispanic Scholarship Fund.

Parra, currently a student at Stanford University, was recognized on April 19 at the Leaders in Education Awards night in Los Angeles. In his acceptance speech and in an online interview, he spoke of a time when the future of his education was threatened.

“Five years ago, I stood in front of a deportation judge and I begged her not to order my dad to leave the country,” Parra told the crowd. “I said, ‘Judge, I want my dad to stay here; I need him to stay here. I want to go to Stanford. I want to get a higher education. If you take him away, I’m going to end up at Burger King, I’m going to end up at McDonald’s. I’m not going to do anything.’”

Two months later, his father received his green card. And two years after that, Parra was a freshman at the university he dreamed of attending.

Q: What does receiving the Male Scholar of the Year award mean to you?

A: It’s essentially a validation of all my efforts, but also the efforts of everybody who has played a role in getting me here, including my teachers at Maine East, the Schuler Scholars program at Maine East and, of course, my family.

Q: How did you come to speak on behalf of your father’s deportation proceedings?
A: A traffic incident had revealed my dad’s legal status to the authorities. When you have an order for deportation, any run-in with the authorities can get you arrested and put in deportation proceedings, and part of that process is going in front of a deportation judge who decides the outcome. My dad’s lawyer asked me to talk about why I needed my dad in the country. I think a lot of it was self-evident: My mom had dealt with illness in the past, and we had no other income earner in the family, so the burden would fall on me and my siblings. Things like school and homework would become less important …. we essentially wouldn’t have the luxury of fulfilling our education.

Q: In what ways has your family helped you become the student you are?
A: My dad has worked my entire life. He works as a waiter so he can provide for the family. And my mom, from the small things like doing the laundry to making sure I had a meal, to waking me up early so I could have breakfast — all of these were integral. My parents also gave me the values I have today, which are essentially this idea of persevering beyond one’s own circumstances and not letting [your circumstances] define where you go. Those were things they told me from a young age.

Q: What are you studying at Stanford?
A: My degree is in management science and engineering with a minor in political science.

Q: What kind of career are you pursuing?
A: This summer I’ll be interning on Wall Street at Morgan Stanley. I’ll be working in their global capital markets division, and hopefully I can leverage that to full-time opportunities in finance after graduating [in 2019].

Q: As a student at Maine East, you were a member of the Schuler Scholar Program. What else?
A: I was in National Honor Society and Gifted Lyceum. I played on the varsity volleyball team, was part of the African drumming club, was president of French Club, and I played in the marching band and wind ensemble. I was also on the Principal’s Student Advisory Council.

Q: How did Maine East prepare you for college?
A: The academic rigor that was provided and the fact that Maine East has so many AP [advanced placement] offerings …. Maine East is also extremely diverse. When I got to Stanford, I felt right at home seeing people from different backgrounds and races together in education.

jjohnson@chicagotribune.com

 

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