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Dulce Gallo-Blanco ’17

Dulce Gallo-Blanco ’15Dulce Gallo-Blanco ’17 was 11 years old when she moved with her family from a small coastal town near Acapulco, Mexico, to the United States, settling in Atlanta. She spoke no English, but learned quickly—by the time she graduated high school, she was class valedictorian. One of eight children, Gallo-Blanco dreamed of being the first in her family to attend college, though it seemed financially unattainable. Strongly encouraged by her high school guidance counselor, she applied for scholarships and, despite intense competition, was awarded a scholarship to Syracuse University from the Posse Foundation, a national organization that partners with higher education institutions to improve access for students from urban backgrounds. “I didn’t know much about SU, so I did some research online,” Gallo-Blanco says. “I wanted a university that was not too small, one that had a lot of extracurricular activities, and Syracuse seemed just right.”

Gallo-Blanco accepted the scholarship without visiting campus and laughs as she recalls the drive to Syracuse with her father—and their surprise at the University’s upstate location. “Syracuse was not at all what I expected,” she says. “I thought I’d be in New York City! But I loved the University the minute I got here.”

A student in the Renée Crown University Honors Program, Gallo-Blanco was originally an undeclared major in the College of Arts and Sciences (A&S). But an introductory course in policy studies focused her plans, and she is considering a career in education policy, advocating for bilingual students. The time she spends volunteering and serving on the advisory board of the college’s La Casita Cultural Center, which celebrates Hispanic culture, has been instrumental in her decision, as well. She’s also the philanthropy chair of Latino Undergraduates Creating History in America (La LUCHA), a member of the A&S Dean’s Team, and co-chair of Syracuse First, which helps first-generation students adjust to university life.

It’s an adjustment Gallo-Blanco had to make herself, one that has not always been easy. “Being the first in the family to go to college is challenging and scary,” she says. “I can’t ask my parents for advice, because they don’t have any college experience.” She felt homesick her second semester, but found emotional and social support as a member of the newly established Syracuse chapter of Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority Inc., the first Latina sorority in the United States. “The sorority promotes the empowerment of women, and it has made all the difference,” she says. “Now there isn’t a minute I feel I’m alone—I can have one of my sorority sisters with me.”

Gallo-Blanco is grateful for the opportunity to attend Syracuse and stresses how important it is for underrepresented groups to have access to higher education. “Scholarships like Posse are so necessary,” she says. “More minority representation helps all students see things from different perspectives. I’m so glad I’m getting an education—without it, I wouldn’t be able to advocate for the things I’m passionate about now, especially empowering women. In our Mexican culture, girls are expected to marry early and have big families. I’m breaking the trend, and hope to set a new path for my younger sisters.”  —Paula Meseroll

Photo by Steve Sartori