Melanie Ulloa

In February of 2020, merely in my freshman year, I visited SAS for the first time. Marveled by the freedom and challenges it would provide me with, I became reassured in my decision to apply for the upcoming year. When I first envisioned myself at SAS, it already felt inviting; all it took was a gut feeling that it would be a transformative experience I could not let pass me by. What I did not expect was the many obstacles that all of us, especially myself, would be faced with during the next three years of our lives. After a rough year of school during the COVID-19 pandemic SAS represented new, hopeful beginnings.

SAS paves the path to some of the best opportunities I have encountered so far, but my greatest takeaway has been that the simple presence of said opportunities does not mean they will be handed to you without merit. The harder I worked at SAS, the more I grew. When I think back to my initial decision, the sacrifice of an hour drive to and from school every day, the trade off of familiarity and comfort for the unknown – it has all been worth it. My accomplishments were not solely on my own merit, however. I owe a great part of my successes to those who continued to believe in me even when I doubted myself: my mom, closest friends, teachers, and the administration.

I was especially lucky to have a history teacher and Model UN sponsor who supported every idea I had and helped it come to fruition; Mr. P’s unwavering faith in me made all of the difference. During my senior year, as co-president of Model UN, my passion to share the unique ability MUN had in allowing people to find their voices came true, alongside many of my goals for our team. We became one of the largest and most active competing clubs at SAS, attending four conferences taking place in the district, state, and even nation. Even the shyest of our new members this year placed in the toughest of conferences, having an amazing learning experience whether competing in Miami-Dade or traveling to Orlando or Washington D.C. Fostering a safe space where juniors and seniors came together and forged lifelong friendships was the most rewarding part of my time at SAS by far.

Throughout my time here, tenacity and resilience allowed me to achieve the unthinkable as a first generation Cuban-American: AP Scholar with Distinction, National Merit Commended Scholar, Miami-Dade County Youth Commissioner, Burger King Scholar, Elks Foundation Scholar, and more. My teachers’ unceasing confidence in me has shaped my strength of character and will continue to impact my view of myself for years to come. Thanks to these efforts, I will be joining the freshman class of Yale University next fall with a full ride as a Gates Scholarship recipient.

I hope that others like myself contemplating this transformative decision take that leap of faith and go to SAS, so that they may also stand the tests that await them and meet their moment of ascension. Now leaving SAS and embarking on another part of my journey, I have never felt more confident in my ability to take anything that’s to come head on. My biggest piece of advice for SAS students is to take control of your story and keep working toward the goals you set for yourself, despite whether this seems achievable or not at the moment. Others might underestimate you, and if that’s the case, then it may be their biggest mistake. Stay true to yourself and chase all of the wonderful opportunities that will cross your path during this new adventure.

Melanie Ulloa
School for Advanced Studies Wolfson, Class of 2023
Yale University, Class of 2027