Student Profiles


Johanna Reyes

IDEA Weslaco, Class of 2021 → The University of Southern California

On March 30, 2021 I sat at my computer.In my email, there was a notification stating there had been a status update for my application to The University of Southern California. My heart skipped a beat. When I logged into my portal, I hesitated to view the status update because I wasn’t sure if I was ready for another rejection. After a couple of minutes, I decided to just go for it.

Then, I felt total disbelief. I saw a series of peace hand signals floating across my computer screen. Little did I know that those peace signs were actually V’s for victory, an iconic gesture of the USC Trojans. They became a symbol of accomplishment and hope. I had earned a victory, and I had been accepted to the college of my choice. I screamed with one of my closest friends on FaceTime, and then I walked into the living room to tell my mom the news.

This fall, I am heading to the University of Southern California in Los Angeles to study engineering. I will be the first person in my family to attend college. I know that a lot of my accomplishments have been possible due to my IDEA teachers’ efforts, the constant motivation and push from staff, collaboration with peers, and the endless support from my family. Here are a few accomplishments I am proud of:

I became a QuestBridge finalist.*
I took 14 Advanced Placement classes, including two dual-enrollment
I was part of National Honors Society, Student Council, Model United Nations, Colts for Community, Varsity Soccer, Feminist Club (secretary), Reading Nights (founder), NTI Mentorship, and Camp ARCH (summer 2020).
I was the valedictorian of my graduating class.

It was not an easy road. This past year, as it has been for so many students around the world, was one full of challenges. I constantly had to adapt and explore new ways of learning. Last spring, our lives took an unexpected turn and forced us to accommodate. Throughout my senior year, my parent’s motivation, my peers’ drive to succeed, and my perseverance kept me going. There were days in which waking up early and staring at a screen for hours seemed detrimental. As students, we had to develop a whole new type of responsibility and accountability. Virtual learning required a level of participation far beyond the usual. Teachers and students alike tried so hard, but still, there were days where engagement was not at its highest and learning and teaching was difficult. It was often up to each student to study and stay on track.

During this time, there were students who took on new roles within their households. Some had to get jobs, while others had to look over younger siblings. Turning the home environment into both a resting and learning place was a challenge within itself. Aside from distractions, the lack of interaction made it difficult for students and teachers to connect. I myself often felt so isolated. I questioned my intellectual ability. I felt mentally drained and contemplated giving up. It was during these moments in which I acknowledged the importance of mental health. Taking the initiative to set time to relax and do the things I loved helped me stay motivated and focused.

I will take the lessons I learned from this unprecedented year and carry them with me, just as I will harness the wisdom and love of my school, my family, and friends as I begin a new chapter of my life and create some of the most significant memories and relationships. I am ready to face new challenges and break barriers as a Hispanic female engineer.

*The QuestBridge National College Match program is a college and scholarship application process that helps outstanding low-income high school seniors gain admission and full four-year scholarships  to the nation’s most selective colleges. QuestBridge accomplishes this by partnering with these schools to identify and support students who otherwise may not apply to leading colleges.