An Aspire Leaders Program alumna from 2022, Isabela Sanchez Taipe overcame barriers in her home country of Peru such as learning English and pursuing a quality education. After her Aspire journey and enrolling at Wellesley College, she joyfully carries her family’s dreams as a first-generation college student.
Born to a single mother of Quechua descent, she feels a sense of pride in her culture.
“I am always proud to say that I am a daughter of immigrants here inside my own country,” she explained. “It was beautiful to grow up in a strong community of women.”
Not just a first-generation college student but the first in her family to pursue a secondary education, Sanchez Taipe paved her own path from a young age.
“Now that I’m in college, I carry the dreams of my mother, my grandmother, and my little siblings – and that makes me feel happy and proud,” she said.
Working to Afford Education
Sanchez Taipe worked hard to pursue educational opportunities and support her family.
“When I graduated High School, I knew I wanted to go to college because no one in my family had [this] opportunity,” she said.
Due to financial circumstances, she pursued a job in customer service directly after graduation. She watched her high school friends attend classes while she answered the phones on the same university campus.
Once saving enough money, she enrolled in an English academy and registered for some computer science courses.
“I know how hard it is to access a STEM education without English,” she expressed. “In South America, the best schools that teach English are the international schools, but they are very expensive and don’t serve those of us in low-income districts.”
After investing in herself and learning new skills, she was excited when the opportunity arose to pursue higher education.
“Studying in the U.S wasn’t my plan,” she said. “But in 2020, I was given a scholarship from the U.S. state department to fund my applications to U.S. colleges.”
In 2022, four years after graduating from high school, Sanchez Taipe gained acceptance to Wellesley College, a prestigious women’s college in Massachusetts.
Traveling to the U.S. for the First Time
“It was scary for me; I had been out of the classroom for so long,” she admitted. “I didn’t even know how to get from the airport to the college.”
Her freshman advisor kindly picked her up from the airport and took her to lunch. Sanchez Taipe realized the kind culture she was stepping into and felt more ready to take on this new adventure.
As a first-generation college student and international student, Sanchez Taipe sought mentorship from her advisor and professors. She formed fast friendships with other international students enjoys her small class sizes and comforting town of Wellesley.
She now understands that telling her story can make a difference in her life and the lives of others.
Experiencing the Importance of Networking
Through faculty mentorship and the Aspire Leaders Program, Sanchez Taipe discovered the importance of networking and a newfound self-confidence.
“When I first got here, a Peruvian professor from Harvard told me something that stuck with me: now that I am here, in my first year, it’s time to start creating my own narrative,” she explained.
One mentor in particular has had a big impact on her life.
“I signed up to take my first computer science class, [and] I realized he had worked to develop ‘App Inventor,’ the app that I used the first time I ever programmed,” she explained. “It was beautiful for me, and he ended up giving me a spot in his lab!”
Her confidence in her story’s impact and herself continued to grow after this experience. Growing up without a computer or wifi access, she never imagined carving a spot for herself in the computer science industry.
Broadening Horizons Through the Aspire Leaders Program
The Aspire Leaders Program provided consistency as Sanchez Taipe transitioned from working in Peru to studying in the United States. She now exudes confidence in new spaces.
“It’s the fact that now I can see me there,” she said, while describing how she aspires to more and does not feel like an imposter in a room of people from world-class institutions.
She also took a lot from interacting with a global community during the program.
“I really loved the connection with my peers! I was able to listen to all of their opinions and ideas,” she explained.
She cites the leadership course for helping to see herself as a leader, the faculty seminars for exposing her to various disciplines and ways to make an impact, and her community of peers for opening her eyes to thoughts from around the globe.
“I didn’t understand how important networking was before I had this chance,” she said.
She appreciated the diversity of the ideas and experiences in the Aspire Leaders Program.
“When I’ve applied to leadership programs before, they aren’t nearly as diverse,” she said. “They are mostly STEM focused, and I love them, but as a computer science major who also feels passionately about education, I love to be around people that study the humanities too.”
Supporting her Community in Peru
The oldest of four cousins whom she calls her siblings, Sanchez Taipe acted as an older sister and mentor.
“I wanted to give them what I couldn’t have,” she expressed.
She sends money back home to her family regularly to help her younger siblings to chase their dreams.
“They can see that these opportunities are possible,” she pronounced. “And so they can dream about it too.”
Sanchez Taipe enjoys the opportunities in the Boston area but hopes to dedicate time to implement a social initiative in Peru.
Sanchez Taipe stays actively connected to other Aspire alumni through social media and our staff team in Cambridge while continuing to mentor others in South America.
“When I see all of the amazing stuff that everyone is doing, I let them know and vice versa. It’s really lovely,” she said.
She has visited the Aspire Institute office in Cambridge, MA several times. Our team admires her story and how she utilizes the networking skills she learned through the program. Sanchez Taipe hopes she can inspire other curious minds from Latin America to take the leap and build connections through the Aspire Leaders Program.