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Helping Hands: 13th Year Scholar Using Opportunity to Help Others

April 25, 2016

Cancer. It's the diagnosis that no one wants to hear, and no doctor wants to deliver. But, that's the diagnosis that South Seattle College student Dulce Saucedo was given at the age of 14.

A tumor had developed in her brain that was so large it would develop into one of the most lethal forms of cancer. Her doctor ordered an emergency surgery.

"When I thought about my future, it scared me," Saucedo explained. "I want to be a doctor, and I can't be a doctor when I'm dead!"

After a successful surgery, Saucedo recovered and has been free and clear ever since.

Since sixth grade, she has been fascinated with science. Her fascination with science fueled her fire in the classroom. Good grades in the subject helped her confidence grow, despite a diagnosis of dyslexia.

"When we had labs, I really enjoyed working with chemicals and ever since then I was hooked," Saucedo said. "I like the mystery of science, and my professional focus is on cancer. I want to find a way to cure cancer. It kills and separates kids from their families at a very young age."

A graduate of Chief Sealth International High School, Saucedo is not only a first-generation college student from her family, but she is also a first generation high school graduate.

As one of three children, Saucedo has seen her single mother struggle to make ends meet. Her mother, Maria, is a housekeeper and Saucedo has joined her on the weekends to help out. Following her mother's example, Saucedo has learned the importance of hard work.

"It's really hard work, and it's not always easy," Saucedo explained.

In addition to teaching her daughter the value of hard work, Maria has also taught her the importance of being thankful.

Like most young people, Saucedo occasionally threw temper tantrums if she wasn't getting what she wanted. Her mother helped put things into perspective for her.

"She would take me to parts of the city where homeless people were living," Saucedo explained. "These people are suffering this much, and you're whining for a toy or a pair of shoes? It brought me back down to reality."

Saucedo is attending South as a 13th Year Promise Scholar. The privately-funded scholarship is granted to all graduates from Cleveland, Chief Sealth International, and Rainier Beach high schools for one-year at South tuition-free.

Without it, Saucedo said that college would not be possible.

"I come from a poor family," Saucedo explained. "With three siblings, college expenses would be more than my mom could handle."

Earlier this year, Saucedo was chosen as a featured speaker at a press conference to speak out as an advocate for equal access to higher education. By nature, Saucedo is a shy person but her passion for opening doors to higher education for the economically disadvantaged helped her overcome her fear of public speaking.

"The 13th Year Scholarship has leveled the playing field," Saucedo explained. "I'm a first-generation college student, and I want to prove to my family that I can pursue my professional dreams."

Saucedo is also trying to level the playing field for the deaf community, as President and Founding member of South's ASL (American Sign Language) Club. With a cousin who is deaf, Saucedo recognized challenges that the deaf community faced when interpreters were not included at events she attended.

Despite all of the challenges that Saucedo has faced, putting others first is still her priority.

"Helping people feels good!" Saucedo explained. "It's what I do all the time – help. And since I'm going to be a doctor, that's one of my main priorities: helping people."