IVC student receives top national scholarship

Allyson Najera said she felt alone and lost in life upon graduating from high school in Santa Ana.

She couldn’t attend a four-year university because her family didn’t have the means to send her. Instead, she enrolled at Irvine Valley College at her mother’s suggestion.

“I was in a time of my life where I didn’t know who I was and my passions in life,” Najera recalled. “I was worried that I wasn’t going to find my community and a solid support system just because a lot of my friends already were at different institutions.”

But the people — faculty, staff and students — she met at IVC helped transform her life. The shy girl who was afraid to raise her hand to go to the restroom in high school now serves as a leader of honor societies and senator of IVC’s student body.

In her second full year at IVC, Najera has been named a 2023 Coca-Cola Academic Team Gold Scholar. The scholarship is given to the top 50 college students across America who demonstrate academic excellence and intellectual rigor combined with leadership and service that benefit society.

“I learned the value of seeking support and collaborating with others,” Najera said. “IVC is such a kind and warm community that I immediately felt capable of asking questions and not feeling judged. That was the first time I felt that in a classroom.”

Najera said she was bullied in elementary school because of her weight and struggled with mental disorders. She turned that experience into research on a link between social media and eating disorders. She presented it at conferences at Pepperdine, UC Irvine and Stanford.

“I never really saw myself as someone who could achieve anything big,” Najera said. “The people I met at IVC shifted my mindset completely. Their goal-oriented mindset motivated me to pursue my academic ambitions.”

Najera plans to transfer to a four-year university this fall and dreams of one day launching a nonprofit that helps youth with mental issues.

“IVC has helped me have a lot more clarity on how I see myself and how I want to serve those around me,” she said. “I was very lost when I began, but now I feel sure.”