Kayla Salazar in her Girls Inc. uniform. Photo provided.
Kayla Salazar in her Girls Inc. uniform. Photo provided.

This article was written by BenitoLink intern Juliana Luna

On Feb. 11, Kayla Salazar attended classes like she would any other day. While at school, the 16-year-old San Benito High School junior called her boss to ask a question. The next minute, Salazar was jumping with excitement after her boss, Girls Inc. of the Central Coast Deputy Director Elizabeth Contreras, had told her to check her email for a surprise. Salazar found she won a $5,000 scholarship.

“Everyone around me looked at me and were like, what is this girl on?” she said about her classmates’ reaction. 

“She was really excited. You could tell how grateful she was. It was something she wasn’t expecting,” Contreras said. 

Salazar had earned the Girls Inc. scholarship from the Lucile Miller Wright Scholars Program. The scholarship is for college-related expenses. Requirements for the scholarship were to be a longtime member of the organization and youth leader. The national scholarship ranges from $5,000 to $20,000. There are over 80 affiliates of Girls Inc. and each affiliate nominated 5 girls, based on staff recommendation, to apply.

Salazar said Girls Inc. “a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering women, to become strong, smart, and bold.” 

Salazar has been part of Girls Inc. of the Central Coast since she was in sixth grade.

“When I was younger, I was so shy,” she said. “I couldn’t raise my hand in the classroom.”

Participating in Girls Inc. has helped her develop confidence and become part of a movement. 

“Girls Inc. helped me find my voice,” she said. “They gave me a space where I felt comfortable and safe.” 

After five years as a member, Salazar is now a youth leader for San Benito High School and facilitator for middle schools and the high school, and has the confidence to speak in front of crowds. 

Winning the scholarship has made Salazar proud of her efforts and shown her the value of being recognized. 

“I am extremely honored to represent an organization I am so passionate about,” she said. 

“An amazing woman, Elizabeth Birkeland, a long-time volunteer from Girls Inc. helped me tremendously.”

She also said the team from Girls Inc. supported her by improving her writing for the scholarship application. Salazar also said she was grateful to San Benito High School teacher Christine Dukes, who wrote a recommendation letter. 

While Salazar thinks highly of the Girls Inc. team, the respect is mutual. 

“She’s just a great young lady, she has definitely grown up to be an amazing woman. We’re really happy to have her as part of our Girls League team and a role model to the younger girls and even to her peers in high school,” Contreras said.


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