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I am Mai Lai Echeverria, daughter of two hard working immigrants, mother of an artistic seven-year-old daughter and an inquisitive five-year-old son, and fiancée to the most supportive man ever. I was born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona, but also spent a lot of my childhood in Mexico with my grandma. From a young age I knew I wanted to go to college. My parents embedded in me the importance of an education and made me hungry for success. My goal was to get a full tuition scholarship; however, I had no idea how I would accomplish that. My parents hadn’t been through this process and didn’t know how to help me, but they did give me the drive to figure it out on my own.

During my senior year of high school, with the help of teachers and mentors, I started applying for admission to different universities, trying to figure out what scholarships I could apply for and learning what FAFSA was. Then one day, I walked into my high school counselor’s office as she was printing information about the Los Diablos Scholarship. I asked her what that was, and she said, “Oh it’s just a scholarship application that I don’t think you’d qualify for.” I guess I should have been offended but I dismissed what she said and asked her to give me a copy anyways. I thought to myself, “What is the worst that could happen? I get denied?” I then went to talk to my Spanish teacher and showed him the application. He said, “You are definitely qualified for this. I will help you with whatever you need.” It was that moment when I realized not everyone will believe in you and that is okay. My counselor didn’t think I was emerged in the Hispanic culture, whereas my Spanish teacher knew I was. If I had let her comment make me give up, I would have missed out on something great.

In August 2008, I stepped onto the Arizona State University campus as a freshman and proud recipient of the Los Diablos full tuition scholarship, the Pat Tillman scholarship, and the University scholarship.  I was so happy and more motivated than ever to succeed. I had applied for many scholarships, faced rejection, and in the end encountered people that believed in me.

Later, while still in college, I found out I was expecting my daughter, who was born in May 2011. Many people doubted I would complete my education, but I knew nothing would stop me. I was more driven than ever. In May 2012, I graduated with my Bachelor of Science in Marketing. This was Mi Victoria, one I had been working towards since I was a kid and one I wanted to share with my family and my community. I made a promise to myself that from this moment forward I would share my success with others, help others achieve success, and give back to the community.

The next thing on my agenda was to figure out my career path. A few months after graduation, I accepted an Advertising Specialist job at Cox Media. I learned a lot in that role, but after some time, I was ready for a new challenge. I started talking to my manager about my next steps. I wanted a marketing job, but my degree wasn’t sufficient, because I lacked experience. She was very supportive and gave me the opportunity to connect with other people in the company. I networked a lot, stepped out of my comfort zone, and took on projects that would allow me to enrich my skills. Finally, I landed a position as a Marketing Analyst, my current role. In addition to my everyday job responsibilities, I lead and participate in initiatives that help promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace. I organize volunteer events and help rally others to give back to the community. In 2018, I graduated from the Hispanic Leadership Institute, an 18-week program that exposed me to different issues in the community, challenged my way of thinking, and allowed me to connect with other individuals who are committed to fighting against inequalities. My future career goals include continuing to grow my leadership skills and knowledge, while positively changing the lives of others.

I hope my story serves as inspiration. I’ve faced many obstacles but the desire to reach my goals has kept me pushing forward. With time, I’ve become less and less afraid to fail, and more afraid to not try. My support system, both family and friends, has made the journey much easier. I’ve grasped on to all the help extended to me and I am certain that I could not have accomplished as much as I did if I had not done so. My mentors, managers, and teachers have all been instrumental in helping me make the right choices, so don’t be afraid to ask for guidance.  “You are confined only by the walls you build yourself.” – Andrew Murphy.