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News > Scholar Spotlight > Scholar Spotlight - Juan Baltazar

Scholar Spotlight - Juan Baltazar

...being an HDFKC scholar means someone is willing to invest in my future. Their initial investment goes beyond just a scholarship, as it represents a community-backed commitment to seeing me succeed.

We caught up with Juan on college life, read what he's been up to below. Needless to say he's been doing some amazing things! 


High School: Sumner Academy in 2017

College: Senior at Johns Hopkins University

Majoring/Minoring: Chemistry with a focus on organic synthesis

Twice I have been selected as the American Chemical Society representative for my class at Hopkins. This meant receiving funding for a research project and at the end of the year, traveling to a national convention to present my research.

My personal favorite project has been working alongside the organic lab professor to create four completely original lab experiments. They were designed to utilize more modern techniques and be more applicable to those pursuing higher education in organic chemistry.  



How did you decide to go out of state for school and what were some of the biggest hurdles you faced? How did your family feel about your going so far away?

The name “Johns Hopkins” was consistently associated with the medical field. Through news articles and journals, I became familiar with their name indirectly. By the time I entered high school, Johns Hopkins was a clear choice for college as I had already decided to pursue a medical career and their name was one I recognized while researching undergraduate programs.

Like many first-generation students, I felt lost through the whole process of applying to college. FAFSA, CSS, personal statements- all things I had never encountered and was expected to fill out alone. I grew frustrated hearing about college info sessions available throughout the city but not having transportation. I found an amazing support system at my high school. Several teachers and faculty members would drive me to info sessions and back home, met with me outside of school to proofread essays, as well as offer words of advice.

I remember telling my mom about my acceptance to Hopkins and she said “Great! Where in Kansas is that?”  Like most parents, she wanted her youngest child as close to home as possible. She was hesitant with me traveling halfway across the country to attend college, even more so because the path to become a doctor is long. But she has become one of my biggest supporters as she has recognized the importance of education.


What has your experience been like at Johns Hopkins Univ thus far?

I absolutely loved my time at Hopkins so far. My freshmen year started rocky as I was not ready for the transition from high school expectations to college expectations. My roommate helped me get my footing in college and all the friends I made my first semester helped me adjust. After this adjustment period, I fell in love.

There seems to always be something to do while at Hopkins. From problem sets to research to extracurriculars, it is easy to get overwhelmed. The student body acknowledges this and helps one another balance all of this. The Hopkins community is very collaborative, always working together to succeed as a group. Being surrounded by like-minded people helps you stay on the road you set yourself out to achieve.


As a first gen student, what are some things you wish you would have known going into college?

I wish I had known it was okay to ask for academic help. I assumed entering Hopkins that it was no longer okay to be confused academically and suffered from imposter syndrome. Looking back at my first semester, my school had many resources available to first generation students to help get them accustomed to college. I did not utilize any of them, but I was lucky to have friends to lean on for help.

I also wish I had known the importance of on-campus groups. From re-connecting to your culture back at home to finding a group who shares a niche hobby, it is a way to connect with more people. I found an on-campus group who sells Mexican sweet bread. Although it is a small thing, buying a concha weekly helped me reconnect with my Hispanic heritage as I felt I was losing it at college.

One specific piece of advice I offer to first generation students – go to office hours. You do not necessarily have to have a question, hearing things a second time will help reinforce key concepts. I did not attend a single office hour my first semester but after that, I went weekly. As a teaching assistant now, I always tell students “you are paying for me to be here, use me as a resource!”


How did you learn about the Hispanic Development Fund scholarship, and what does it mean to you to be an HDFKC scholar?

My high school college counselor pushes all Hispanic students to apply to HDF.

For me, being an HDFKC scholar means someone is willing to invest in my future. Their initial investment goes beyond just a scholarship, as it represents a community-backed commitment to seeing me succeed – they support my goals and believe I will achieve it. HDF knows the importance of starting a cycle of success within the Hispanic community. I hope to help the next generation when I am in the position to do so.  I will take the hope HDF placed onto me, allow it to grow, and pass it onto the next generation, doing my part to keep the cycle of success going.


What additional support do you feel you get from being part of the "Named Scholarship Program"? 

HDF already provides numerous resources to help me succeed and having the honor of being a part of the “Named Scholarship Program” adds an additional resource. It feels more personal as there is a person directly invested in my success.

In my specific case, through the named scholarship program I found someone to serve as a role model for me. Their commitment to serving the Hispanic community is inspiring. They have served numerous times as a mentor, giving me advice and helping me stay focused on achieving my goals. I felt like they took special interest in my success, going above and beyond what I expected. Randomly checking up on me throughout the semesters and making sure I was both academically and emotionally well. The named scholarship program is something that has directly impacted me in college, and I hope it continues to foster and grow.


What advice would you give to our community when it comes to voting this year?

To have your voice heard, you must speak. You cannot expect change while remaining silent. We must speak through ballots and go out to vote. We owe it not only to ourselves but to our parents who have sacrificed to give us the opportunity to make an impact.


Where can we find Juan in 4 years as we gear up to celebrate our 40th anniversary?

You will find me in medical school and trying to make an impact in my local community.  Either volunteering at Duchesne clinic in Kansas City or the equivalent wherever I am studying at, I plan to continuously help others access affordable healthcare.

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