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The empowerment of scholarship

Diana Ruelas overcame many obstacles to set up her exciting future

Diana Ruelas, an Arizona State University fashion business graduate, had a difficult adolescence, but SVdP’s Scholarship Program has helped her to blaze a trail of her own in college and grow into a person she never thought she would become.

Tragedy struck Diana’s family when she was only 15. Her father suddenly went missing, and the family still has no idea what happened to him.  

“My family kind of fell apart,” Diana said. She ended up living with an aunt to finish her high school years, then another aunt’s house for the first couple years of college. But neither were home.  


As she was attending community college, studying fashion design, one of the counselors noticed Diana’s hard work and dedication and talked to her about the SVdP Scholarship Program and told her that it was for students who wanted to continue to study despite financial or life hardships. She thought Diana was a great candidate for the program and worked with her to apply to the SVdP Scholarship Program.  

The scholarship’s program staff agreed with Diana’s counselor and quickly invited her into the program, which paid for half of Diana’s tuition at ASU, set her up with a mentor, provided her with practical learning opportunities in the form of workshops, and much more.

“I felt like I was stuck for a really long time, and it wasn’t good for my mental health,” she said. “My scholarship helped me find a way out. It took that weight off my shoulders.”

With the funds from the scholarship, Diana was able to move into a dormitory on ASU’s downtown campus, offering her the housing stability she needed to focus on her studies. It was an immediate game changer.

“This scholarship gave me opportunities to meet amazing people and live in an amazing place. I feel like that helped me come out of my shell,” she said.

All students in the program are first generation college students, so their families often have no experience navigating the American higher education system. That’s why connecting students to a mentor is a huge cornerstone of the program. 

Diana with her mentor, Alejandra.

Diana’s mentor in the program, Alejandra, has not only helped Diana figure out rhythms of college life; she’s also helped her bloom as a person.  

“Alejandra has really helped me branch out and do the things I've always wanted to do,” Diana said. “She really is there for me as a friend. And I feel like I can just rely on her if I have any questions about future careers or even anything I want to do at ASU. She's really helped me with that.”

Diana poses in her graduation gown with Alejandra, her mentor, after her graduation ceremony.
Alejandra and Diana pose together after Diana's graduation ceremony.

Despite her degree in fashion management, Diana has found a passion for working in the sports industry. This is reflected in the several internships she has completed with well-known and connected organizations, including the Sun Devil Athletics, a summer at the Escuela Universitaria Real Madrid in Spain, and the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Community Impact Team, where she’s already giving back to the community by raising funds for underprivileged sports programs. Alejandra has even been able to connect her to contacts in the Footprint Center.

Now that she’s graduated (with straight A’s in her last semester to boot), she’s applying for jobs in the sports business field. She's also interested in positions in the fashion field, but her dream would be to find a position in the intersection of both; and more importantly, she wants a position that lets her give back to the community.

“I just want to say thank you to the program and its staff,” she said. “It's just amazing how many students they are trying to help. They already helped me financially, but even them going out of their way to help me find a home. I feel like that kind of just speaks volumes on the people that work behind the scholarship. They didn't have to help me extra.”

Diana is one of 11 other students in the SVdP Scholarship Program graduating this May.