Incoming University of New Mexico freshman Jessica Belmares-Ortega is the recipient of a $100,000 scholarship from Ronald McDonald House Charities. She will be presented with her scholarship award on Saturday, June 29 at 2:30 p.m. at the Ronald McDonald House, located at 1011 Yale Blvd. NE.

The RMHC scholarship was established in 1985 to help Hispanic high school students finance their college education. To date, more than $23 million in scholarships has been given to Latino students making it one of the country’s largest college scholarships.. The RMHC/HACER scholarship provides awards ranging from $1,000 to $100,000 per student. In 2008, with the support of Hispanic McDonald’s owner/operators, the national scholarship was added, which to date has awarded $2.3 million.

Belmares-Ortega is one of only four recipients nationally.

Jessica Belmares-Ortega's goal after college is to continue helping her community and the less fortunate while making her family proud. For these reasons, the college-bound student has decided to apply her bilingual (English/Spanish) skills and work in a rural area where health discrepancies are found in public hospitals and small clinics.

Belmares-Ortega’s career choice is based on a personal experience that impacted her life at an early age. Growing up in a Spanish-speaking environment, she experienced the difficult personal process of waiting for a health diagnosis while a translator was located. The language barrier makes it commonplace for a patient to leave the hospital without a full understanding of his/her health condition, and can often be detrimental to his/her health. It was a life-altering experience that directed the course of her life.

The Albuquerque native plans to major in a community-based health sciences field, and extend her fluency skills to help those who only speak Spanish. She plans to enroll in a medical laboratory program, practice while learning in a research setting, and later be able to help doctors determine patients' illness and diseases by conducting research and testing - an important process that aids in administering proper treatment.

In the end, her vision is to better understand her patients’ needs, help them better understand their health conditions, create a more positive experience during those tense moments at the doctor’s office, and assist patients in improving the overall health.

“Attending college has always been heavily encouraged, as I come from a first-generation Hispanic family,” Belmares-Ortega said. “And, graduating from college is a big success as not very many of my family members have had the opportunity to do so.”

“By the time I receive my bachelor's degree, I will have the necessary experience to work in a medical laboratory as a research technician while translating medical terms for individuals who struggle to understand their health condition,” she added.

Belmares-Ortega is a graduate of Albuquerque High School, and a first generation student to attend college. Her community experience includes working with Presbyterian Child-Life Services. She starts her freshman year of college in the fall at the University of New Mexico where she plans to major in biomedical engineering.