Opening Doors

USD student Brittany Espinosa-Arevalo


Each year, a new cohort of four first-year students become MacDonald Community Scholars. The scholarship’s founder, Scott MacDonald, launched this scholarship at USD in 2017, leading to recipients contributing hundreds of hours of community service.

His recently published book, Education without Debt: Giving Back and Paying It Forward, examines the student debt crisis and what can be done to fix it.

Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering first-year student Brittany Espinosa-Arevalo (pictured) moved to the U.S. from Mexico City at the age of 11. The move required her to learn a new language while finding a way to excel at her studies. That life experience is now helping her to serve others. As a MacDonald scholar, she receives $5,000 every year while she attends USD; in turn, she volunteers 10 hours each week to mentor students and help staff at the Barrio Logan College Institute (BLCI) — the same institute she attended in high school that prepared her for college.

“It’s really nice that I can be here for BLCI students, since I’ve been there before,” she says. “I tell them, ‘It’s going to be OK, you’re going to get the hang of it. It’s just a matter of time and a matter of consistency.’” 

Melissa Arana ’21 (BS/BA) was part of the first cohort of USD MacDonald Scholars. “As a freshman, I didn’t really know anybody,” she recalls. “The Mulvaney Center opened doors for me to connect with people from different backgrounds, different majors, different ages — everything. It gave me a safe space in which I felt represented and welcomed,” she says.

Over the past four years, she’s taught soccer to students through YALLA San Diego, tutored students in Linda Vista and, most recently, helped two local restaurants during the pandemic through the Logan Heights Community Development Corporation.

“Every Friday, I walked around the community, introduced myself, asked them how they were doing and if they had received any help, then made sure there was follow-up. I was able to connect with two restaurants and we made the switch from having a physical menu to having QR codes printed and put on their tables for free,” says Arana.

This effort boosted their businesses and made employees feel safer while at work, she says. She’s hoping to bring her university experience back
home to Panama. “As engineers, we always try to make things better. Our education system back in Panama is lacking a lot of tools I’ve been exposed to here in the United States,” she says.

Espinosa-Arevalo also believes in paving the way for others to pursue a higher education. “If I can do that for others then, I’m all for it.”Elena Gomez

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