The population of Indigenous students in Ivy Leagues schools is unsurprisingly small but one Indigenous tribe member in California is joining the student body of one of the most prestigious schools in the U.S. Elizabeth Esteban’s parents are farm laborers and part of Purépecha, an Indigenous tribe from Michoacán, Mexico, and they settled in eastern Coachella Valley. Now they’re celebrating Elizabeth’s scholarship to the a prestigious Ivy League school where the Indigenous/Latino population is limited. Not only did she get into Harvard, she also got a full ride scholarship. Elizabeth lives in a mobile home in Mecca, and her parents are two of hundreds of members of the indigenous tribe that reside in the area. Over two thousand Purépecha live in two camps and they make up a large number of the workforce in Coachella Valley.
“Well I felt proud and excited, every sort of emotion because I never would have believed that a person like me, would be accepted to a prestigious university,” Elizabeth told the local NBC station.
“Waking up early every morning and working hard in the fields is worth it,” her mom, Cecilia, told NBC. “Now it’s even more worth it, because my daughter has accomplished what she has dreamt about. I am so proud”.
Amid the pandemic the process of getting into the school wasn’t easy. She tells the publication that her internet, provided by the district, went out during her interview with Harvard and that she’s been plagued with internet issues in Mecca. “I am one of the students who also has problems with the internet because I use the internet that the district gave us,” Elizabeth told Univision. Despite the issues during her interview she “thought to myself, that I have to continue fighting and yes, the pandemic is an obstacle, which I had to overcome. “
Con muy pocos recursos, viviendo en una casa rodante, hija de inmigrantes indigenas Purepuchas de México, esta jovencita ganó una beca completa para estudiar en #Harvard Bravo Elizabeth Esteban!!! 👏👏👏 #TheGoodNewsIsYou #LaBuenaNoticiaEresTu https://t.co/8ozhmYv6I9 pic.twitter.com/FiGHCrQnoY
— Adriana Ruggiero Robinson (@adrianaruggiero) April 14, 2021
She also shared that she was discouraged because she’s from an underserved community that isn’t represented in a school like Harvard. The university’s acceptance rate is 4.7 percent and, according to the breakdown of their 2014 class, Latinos made up 12.7 percent of the student body.
She told NBC that she might consider running for Congress herself and plans to study political science she told Univision. “I’m part of an indigenous group that feels that women should stay at home and be the stereotypical stay at home mother, later on in the future. I just wanted to break those barriers,” Elizabeth told NBC.