Name: Andrea Jaramillo
Major: Biology
Year: Senior
Hometown: Santo Domingo, Ecuador

Sheer tenacity: Arriving in the U.S. in 2007 to find that a college program she had paid for was not as advertised, Andrea had to figure out how to learn English and get an education with no money. Paying as she went, “in summers I did construction, landscaping, house painting and restoration, and babysitting.” The worst of it? Cleaning out rat-infested basements. But she says, “That’s just how much it takes to do your dreams, you know?”

Dedicated doctor to be: Andrea is a difference maker for single mothers, school children and orphans back in Ecuador. Working toward her “American dream,” she plans to become a pediatrician or neurosurgeon.

Selfless giving: Andrea says that in Ecuador, divorced and widowed women are shunned, so they have little means of making a living. She and her mother established a candy factory that today employs 16 single moms and makes really great chocolates!

Smiles galore: Two years ago, Andrea rented two merry-go-rounds, an inflatable jumping house, made popcorn and cotton candy, and loaded up on face-painting supplies. She invited children from three Ecuadoran orphanages to what was later called the “Day of 1,000 Smiles.” She is planning many more.

Her inspiration: When Andrea was 6, her sister was born mentally disabled and with cerebral palsy. “She is my strength; I have the strength of two people because she cannot do things, so I must do them for her,” she says.

Haven’t heard enough? With help from a corporate sponsor, Andrea will travel back to Ecuador this summer to install a potable water system outside a school that currently has no clean drinking water. Most of the children who attend there have a two-hour walk each way every school day.

By Amy Raley