“I believe that at the core, we are all the same…. Despite our differences… we all have dreams that we hope to one day accomplish, but before we can do that, I believe that it is imperative that we find pride in the stories behind who we are.”
It is that journey of finding pride in the story behind who she is, that has taken 2015–2016 national Technology Student Association (TSA) treasurer Cesia Flores northward from Nuevo Laredo, Mexico—to the Rio Grande Valley of Texas—to Harvard University.
Cesia arrived at a young age with her family in the Lone Star State. Her father, Omar Flores Acevedo, a Christian pastor, had been offered a job a year in advance at a church in the southernmost tip of Texas, so her family had time to get used to the idea of moving. “We had been in a border town in Mexico, so most people would always talk really well about the United States,” Cesia recalls.
Once they settled, Cesia learned English quickly because it was the only language spoken at her new school. “The first year I was in the U.S. was easier than later on. My community in Texas is Hispanically-populated, very similarly to Mexico,” she describes.
Over the years, the family acclimated to living in the United States. But when Cesia was in middle school, her father became ill. On June 3, 2013, just before Cesia was about to start high school, her father lost his battle with cancer. Cesia and her family coped with what she describes as “unbearable anguish” that summer. Her mother, Esther Morin de Flores, now had to care for four children on her own. Eventually, she would open her own restaurant.
Cesia applied to attend the South Texas Business, Education, and Technology Academy (BETA), a smaller high school than most—dedicated to students interested in pursuing specific careers. It was at BETA that Cesia discovered TSA. “I wanted to be an engineer someday, and the technology track at the school appeared to be the closest path to studying engineering. I did the technology track and all the teachers said I should join TSA. I really loved it.”
Cesia participated in TSA competitions of Chapter Team, Promotional Graphics, Photography, and VEX Robotics. “When you first become a TSA member, you think, ‘This will look good on my resume.’ But as you participate more, and if you get to go to conferences, you meet people from different places and celebrate each other’s successes…. People were kind and they reassured me. They didn’t have to, but they did, and that was always something I really loved. TSA offered a support system and boosted my confidence and self-esteem at a time when I needed it.”
Cesia served as chapter treasurer her freshman year; Texas TSA treasurer her sophomore year; and at the end of her sophomore year, was elected as Texas TSA vice president for the following school year. But that summer, Cesia ran for and was elected to serve as national TSA treasurer during her junior year. “I was really shy before I joined TSA,” she admits. “Then I ran for office and learned how to speak in front of a large audience. I always admired how my dad would speak in public; I was in awe of him and nervous for him at the same time. TSA gave me the opportunity to face my fears head on. Courage is knowing that you can overcome fear.”
That summer on social media, Cesia thanked national TSA and Texas TSA. “I would not be the person I am today without my TSA experiences, the amazing friends I have met through this organization, all of the officer teams I have worked with and the manner in which my chapter, state, and national advisors have pushed me to become a better person. It was truly an honor.”
When Cesia ran for office, she would imagine what it would be like if she won. “Visualizing your dreams can help make them come true,” she says. “Don’t be overwhelmed by the idea of all the work and don’t lose motivation if you don’t get results right away.”
The public speaking skills she honed in TSA certainly proved beneficial when, on June 3, 2017—four years to the day after the tragic loss of her father—Cesia completed the International Baccalaureate program and Technology Track at BETA and took to the stage to address the Class of 2017 as its valedictorian. ‘Thank you to my father in heaven who always motivated me to chase my dreams with determination and courage. Thank you to my mom who is my truest confidante and number one fan,” she said emotionally during her speech.
In March 2016, Cesia was selected to participate in the 54th annual U.S. Senate Youth Program (USSYP); each spring, only about 100 students are chosen from across the country to take part. She detailed her experience in the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth (CTY) Imagine magazine. “Meeting U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was truly a transformational experience for me,” wrote Cesia.
Justice Ginsburg described what it was like to be one of only nine women out of 500 students in her Harvard Law class. As a child in Mexico, Harvard was only something Cesia had heard about in the movies. But in fall 2017, she found herself as a freshman in the Ivy League. “It was amazing,” she says. Once again, she had to acclimate. “I’m grateful I’m here, but sometimes I feel isolated. But then I think, I am here and I can motivate other people to think, ‘Maybe I can do it, too!’
In summer 2018, Cesia served as a marketing intern for the Harvard Museum of Natural History. She’s considering majoring in economics and minoring in psychology—and combining them to study behavioral economics and how people react to retail environments. She is very interested in the fashion industry and hopes to attend graduate school at Harvard Business College, and have a brand, and a blog, in the future. Her advice to others who aspire to go Ivy? “High school seniors may think, “It’s too hard to get in, I’m not even going to try. But you never know. And a personal essay can be an opportunity to write about your life, your circumstances.” Cesia shared her TSA roles in one of her essays. “Whether you’re an officer, or you led a team for a competition, or worked on something for a conference or a community service program—leadership, competitive skills, work ethic, putting in the time and effort to do something outside of the classroom, or something in TSA that changed your life—these are all something that colleges value.”
Her advice for those heading to college? “Even if you were a star in high school, know that you may need to ask for help in college,” says Cesia, and do not be afraid to ask for help.
As she declared at her graduation, “There will be people who will judge your story or your experiences or how you react to situations in your life. But despite that, there will also be people who will be inspired by simply hearing your story. And it is for those people you should never hesitate to share who you are and where you come from.”