Lily Lawler walked on the land of her ancestors two years ago, not knowing the experience foreshadowed her future.

As she walked, Lawler was told Hiram Bingham was sent from Yale University to discover the ancient Inca settlement Machu Picchu.

From there, the Waxahachie Global High salutatorian fantasized over attending the Ivy League school that carries a 6.3 percent acceptance rate.

Lawler's mother is Peruvian and was raised in a rural area engrossed in poverty. Higher education permitted the family to evade the harsh conditions and find salvation in the United States by the late 1990s.

This ideal was instilled in Lawler and was a significant influence in her education. Lawler is a lifelong Waxahachie resident, growing up in a low-income, single-parent household. The 18-year-old claims the lifestyle made her more resourceful in life.

"Education is important because it can take you places that you won't be able to without it," Lawler said. "For me, day one, freshmen year, I knew everything mattered."

To be the most studious as possible, Lawler established relationships with professionals, was prompt returning assignments and took advantage of the resources at Global. Lawler expressed attending an early college STEM school like Global was a blessing because it allowed her to obtain an associate's degree that she could fall back on — if necessary.

Lawler applied to three Ivy League schools through QuestBridge National College Match, which 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.

Lawler was offered a scholarship that covers the full cost of tuition and fees, room and board with some student contributions required. The program allows students who face economic challenges to compete at the same level as more resourceful scholars.

"I really didn't think much would come of it because it is so selective, but I'm really glad that I have the opportunity to represent not only Waxahachie but people from similar backgrounds," Lawler expressed.

As a child, some schools stood out as the biggest and the best. As an 18-year-old, Lawler is aware that it doesn't matter the prestigious component of the school, but instruction is what matters.

FOLLOWING HER HERITAGE

"The reason why I chose Yale is because it has some connections to my culture and my history and the resources that they offer and the personality of the school displays," Lawler explained.

She plans to study anthropology, which was influenced by her experiences growing up as a "white Latina."

"Growing up with my mom, I'd never viewed myself as anything but Peruvian because that was the culture I was exposed to," Lawler elaborated. "The closest thing to my culture was the Mexican or Hispanic culture. Because I was white, presenting Latina, I didn't really fit in with them. It felt very awkward for me because I didn't really know where I fell."

Lawler plans to further her knowledge of cultural identity and other avenues of human societies. She plans to continue school to obtain her a bachelor's, master's, and most likely her doctorate degree.

On Aug. 17, Lawler leaves for orientation at Yale, which is located 90 minutes from New York in the city of New Haven, Connecticut.

HARD GOODBYES

"The most difficult thing will be to leave my mom and my family," Lawler stressed. "All three of my aunts that I grew up with and my mom, we live in the same neighborhood. So I see them every other day. It's going to be hard to not have that support system."

While Lawler lived in Waxahachie, she played basketball at the Waxahachie Family YMCA for five years, competed in academic UIL for literary criticism and spelling — and even advanced to regionals this year — served as the senior editor of the yearbook and was the founder/president of Culture Club. She tutored students in math, English and science outside of school. When she is not doing schoolwork, she is at Panza's Tapping Italy working the front counter.

Lawler explained that Global provided resources and opportunities to shape her character. She described her four years at Global as "incredible" and mentioned her gratefulness to all of the Global staff.

"It gave me a vision of future that I didn't think I'd be able to achieve," Lawler noted about the Global experience. "I never imagined that I'd be able to go to Yale. I never imagined that I'd have that opportunity and didn't think that I'd have that security of a college degree before college."

Lawler said she will miss the town, people and the memories made in Waxahachie the most.

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Ashley Ford | @aford_news | 469-517-1450