San Antonio, TX
Born in Lima, Peru, and raised in San Antonio, Texas, Daniel Flores never dreamed he would one day study at a top four-year university. His parents, seeing no future in their native Peru as a political and civil conflict ravaged their country, immigrated to the U.S. with limited English. They ultimately found themselves confronting new challenges in San Antonio, a city rife with violence and drugs. Nevertheless, Daniel’s parents, who never attended college, always told him that education would be the key to his success. His father repeatedly told him, “work hard in this country and you can go to Harvard.” Even though Daniel later learned that his father didn’t know anything about Harvard -- that it was simply the only school he had heard of -- the idea stuck and paved his road to college.
Daniel knew that his large public high school of over 4,000 students was considered the most violent in his district; it even had its own parole officer on campus. Still, Daniel found inspiration from the many strong, humble, hardworking people in his community on the West Side of San Antonio. He had a tight group of friends, and was involved in soccer, swimming, water polo, Honor Societies, and volunteering. He took challenging courses, and even took extra independent study classes to teach himself class material when no one else could help him. Independently, he navigated through high school without role models to guide him. While he wanted to attend college, he felt doubtful about the future and assumed that he would end up at the local community college like so many of his classmates.
One fateful day, Daniel arrived early to class and stood outside a classroom, where there was a poster for QuestBridge on the door. A friend pointed it out to him casually and said, “Hey, you should do that.” His reaction? “That it was too good to be true, that it must be some kind of scam,” he recalls. However, months later, he found himself submitting a National College Match application. When asked how he went about researching schools, he admits that he couldn’t afford to visit any schools, and that he mostly relied on internet research and admit rates. His leap of faith paid off, and on Match day, he received a phone call informing him of his admission and full scholarship to Northwestern University.
Thinking back at that day, Daniel says, “I didn’t believe it. I still don’t believe it, even now. To be honest, it was really surreal.” Moving from a huge city in Texas to one of the most rigorous and prestigious universities in the Midwest was a rough transition to say the least. “It was a culture shock,” he says, both academically and emotionally. Yet he shows no regret: “Northwestern is amazing. I get to interact with some of the smartest minds in the country and world. There is so much to learn not only in the classroom, but also from my peers,” he acknowledges, gratefully. Currently a sophomore, Daniel is now helping to revitalize the Quest Scholars chapter at Northwestern to ensure that students like him can find a solid support network in place. He is studying business and communications and is open minded to the future, with a possible career in business or even college admissions.
Interviewed November 30, 2011