Scholarship Recipients

Yulia Garcia

The Olivia Raya Scholarship was very instrumental in my pursuit of my dream of a higher education. I came from Venezuela in 1999 and in a short period of time I was able to realize the importance of an education and being a positive Latina Role model for future generations. I achieved my Bachelor's Degree in Spanish from Rockhurst University and I am working on a Master of Education at Rockhurst. Having the Olivia Raya scholarship not only helped me as a college student, but I was greatly honored to have been the first recipient of this wonderful scholarship honoring a very bright and great individual such as Olivia. Thank you!!

Jessica Alvarez

My name is Jessica Alvarez and I was lucky enough to receive the Raya Scholarship last year. It was a great opportunity. The Raya Scholarship has helped me on my way to graduating from Rockhurst University with a Bachelor in Political Science and Spanish. My future plans are to continue going to graduate school and later finding a job with a national Hispanic non-profit where I can help other young Hispanics continue their education and fulfill their dreams. Thanks to the Raya Scholarship and the Raya family I know I will reach my goal.

Lauren-Claire Garcia

I am truly blessed and honored to be the recipient of the Olivia Raya Scholarship for my junior year at Rockhurst University. Not only does this scholarship allow me to receive an education, but also to share with my fellow companions the importance of love, dedication and most importantly, family, through the memory of Olivia Raya. I strongly feel every day is a gift, and what a better way to share this gift than by helping others. The Olivia Raya Foundation is an incredible cause, as well as an inspiration to live our lives to the fullest capacity. Thank you for the honor of representing this wonderful organization dedicated to keeping Olivia's memory alive.

Wendy Alvarez

Inspiration. Passion. Dedication. Olivia has left us with this, and much more. As an angel in heaven, she has achieved as many great things from "up there," as she did here on earth. And one of those great things is to give hope. I moved here, from Mexico to the United States, in 2005, with the dream of a better education and of a better future. And that dream is coming true! As a student at Rockhurst University, pursuing a double major in Biochemistry and Mathematics, I can only thank the generosity of the Raya family for their precious gift that has given me the opportunity to continue my education and my career; and I can only thank our angel Olivia, for in her memory this scholarship was founded, a treasured gift that I have been honored to receive. Following in her footsteps, and in our Jesuit tradition, I am committed to help my community, to be a caring person, to serve others, and to transform lives, as I work my way to become a research scientist that hopes one day, to give back what today I have been so blessed to receive.

Johana Penaranda

My dream to graduate from college was not easy. When I was a sophomore, I became pregnant with my little angel, Angelita. Even though she was a blessing, every semester became a bigger struggle trying to juggle school, homework, home, being a mother and working. A week before starting my senior year, I knew my hectic life would be back, but instead I received a call informing me that I was the 2011 Olivia Raya Scholarship recipient. I could not have been more honored and blessed. Through this scholarship I received a great financial and emotional support. I had the privilege to share incredible moments with the Raya family and their amazing friends. Being around them, helped me learn about Olivia and how much of a wonderful person she was. I am very thankful to the Raya family and their friends for helping other Latinas achieve the dream that Olivia once had.

Megan Sneed

It is an honor to be the recipient of the Olivia Raya 2012 scholarship. Reading the description of the scholarship was heart warming and heart breaking at the same time. Olivia's story is beautiful, though sad in that her life ended early.

I am the first person in my family to go to college and in May of 2013 I will graduate! It's been three years of hard work, long nights, and numerous pep talks from my family and friends. I have worked 25-30 hours a week the past three years, and 40 hours a week during summer and winter breaks to pay for my school expenses and life expenses in order to get my bachelor's degree. My senior year is no different! I will be working 25-30 hours a week to make ends meet.

There are not enough words to describe the blessing scholarships are in my life and how helpful it is to receive the Olivia Raya scholarship. Student loans are not ideal and I have done my best to save and seek out grants and scholarships, but there is always a portion that hasn't been covered through those means, and receiving your scholarship is a gift from the Lord, and blessing in lightening the load of student loans.

Like Olivia Raya, graduating with a bachelor's will be my greatest life achievement thus far, and it would be an honor to do so as the recipient of her scholarship. Thank you very much for your consideration.


Megan D. Sneed

Rebekah Burrows

I was born and raised in Kansas City, MO. There are so many things that I loved about my childhood. The number on thing was getting to spend time with my family. I always waited in anticipation to go to my Abulito's house and see everyone. All the time I spent with them has shaped me into the person I am today. One of the biggest things I got from my family is the idea of how important education is. To me, going to a good school and getting an excellent education has always been my number one priority and a dream.

Thanks to Sylvia, Louis, and the scholarship set up by the Olivia Raya foundation this dream has become a reality for me. I am able to continue my education and fulfill my dream of helping children with Autism, whether it's through speech therapy or behavioral therapy.

Words cannot describe how thankful I feel for being the recipient of this scholarship. Sylvia and Louis have come to mean so much to me and I am grateful that they have let me into their lives.


Rebekah Burrows

Andrea Villanueva

Andrea Villanueva was born in Mexico City and raised in Kansas City, Kansas. She is a junior at Rockhurst University and is majoring in Accounting. In high school, Andrea was a member of the National Honors Society and Student Council. She is currently working toward becoming a member of the Student Organization of Latinos (SOL) at Rockhurst while maintaining her Dean's List status and juggling full-time work at H&R Block Headquarters downtown. In the future, Andrea hopes to own her own a business and get involved in community uplifting programs around town.

Lucia Crosetti

I cannot even fully begin to explain how honored and humbled I am to be receiving the Olivia Raya Memorial Scholarship. The scholarship isn't only greatly helping my family and I financially, but it has also impacted my life on a deeper level. The way you and your family have taken something in your life and turned it into something that helps me and many more women to come is truly amazing. Sylvia, you are a role model to me. I can only hope to be half the woman Olivia was, but to live up to you as well. You are such an inspiration to me in all aspects of life. Your continuous joy for life, infectious personality and motherly kindness, humbles me. I am beyond grateful for the gift I've been given at Rockhurst to continue my education but I am even more grateful for the lessons in life you've given me. I am forever grateful for your family's kindness and support. Olivia's memory will continue on.

Maria Mendez-Brito

I am extremely blessed and thankful for being an Olivia Raya Scholarship recipient. I was very hesitant starting this school year due to the fact that I switched my major to business and because my sister was entering high school which meant my dad had to pay three catholic/private schools. I originally planned on working more hours or getting a second job in order to help my dad with my tuition. As soon as I heard of this amazing blessing I felt somewhat relieved and even more anxious for this school year. Being an Olivia Raya Scholarship recipient has been so amazing and has brought me tremendous opportunities and connections to so many people. I never really knew what I was capable of until I began this experience. I want to be kind, giving and inspiring to others just like Olivia was to me. This has been a great opportunity and I am so thankful for everything you have done to even make this possible for me.