Challenging the costs

2022 Valerie Fuette Scholarship winner Marisol Ornelas readies herself to make education both equitable and accessible

Marisol Ornelas (Stevenson ‘24, politics and legal studies)

While at UCSC, Marisol Ornelas (Stevenson ‘24, politics and legal studies) is working to remedy the many obstacles on the road to higher education. A first-generation student, Ornelas’s passions include giving back to her community, student activism, and labor and education policy. 

She was awarded the Valerie Fuette Scholarship in Politics in 2022 and is working toward combating the rising cost of a college education.

The Valerie Fuette Scholarship in Politics, a permanently endowed award donated by Fuette (Cowell ‘85, politics), looks to help students alleviate debt amidst the growth of higher education costs. The issue of higher education’s rising costs is now more important than ever: a challenge observed and combated by Ornelas. 

After graduating in Spring 2024, Ornelas plans to attend law school and practice family and labor law to give back to her community. At UCSC, Ornelas focuses on labor and education policy in preparation for this career path. Ornelas’ passion for these issues is what drove her to attend UCSC, a university booming with student activism.

“I wanted to go somewhere where students were equally passionate about social issues,” she said. “I fell in love with the campus forest environment, which was calming after midterms and finals. As a first-generation and low-income student, UCSC had a lot to offer through EOP and HSI initiatives.”

Ornelas says the Valerie Fuette Scholarship will lighten the financial burden she faces as a student working multiple jobs.

Ornelas currently works as a paralegal assistant with Medina Paralegal Services, is a community engagement intern with local nonprofit Senderos, and is an intern with nonprofit organization, Women In Leadership for Diverse Representation. In addition to her internships, Ornelas is an RA for Cowell College and is a Peer Advisor with the Politics and Legal Studies department. 

Ornelas values the ability to destress and have conversations with housemates and friends, where they give advice and possible solutions to challenges they face.  

“We would also spend long nights discussing our views on societal issues,” Ornelas says. “This is an experience of community and intellect that I would not be able to experience at just any University.”

As Ornelas moves towards changes at a level of law and policy, she hasn’t lost focus on the change she can make even now. Ornelas offers guidance for the students to follow in her footsteps and take advantage of the many resources UCSC has to offer.

“No one will know when you need help until you ask,” she says. “Make it your job to learn about the resources that UCSC has to offer. Apply to every opportunity you are interested in because you never know when a door opens.”