In the fall of 2017, Oscar Leon was living in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. His family’s home remained standing, but they were without power and consistent running water for several months. His school theatre, however, was completely decimated.
“At first, the future seemed dismal,” says Oscar. “But the community came together to rebuild everything, and the theatre was ready in time for my senior play that spring.”
In August 2018, Oscar and his family moved to Spotyslvania County, and Oscar began classes at UMW. He was grateful to receive a scholarship and a Pell grant, but admits he had trouble adapting to life in Virginia and at UMW.
That all changed when a professor nominated him to be a peer mentor and orientation leader. Over the next two years, with help from the Albert R. Klein, Catherine Brown Simpson ’36, and June Davis McCormick ’49 scholarships, Oscar found time to study, act in plays, and serve as a mentor to students in the first-year seminar program.
“I finally found my place at Mary Washington,” says Oscar, “I tried to do it alone my first year, but everything really is better with friends and peers. Thanks to my scholarships and the Heritage Society donors who created them, I don’t worry as much about paying tuition or dealing with student loans. That, too, has made a big difference.”
In the spring of 2020, Oscar once again faced the possibility of having a much-anticipated theatrical performance canceled when the COVID-19 pandemic led to the suspension of on-campus classes and events. He was thrilled, however, when the cast of Much Ado About Nothing was able to perform the play via online streaming.
As a junior theatre major, Oscar works in the Klein Theatre management office and is learning other practical and marketable skills. While his career goal is to become an actor in New York City, he has learned firsthand that you must plan for the unexpected.
For information about creating scholarships for students, contact the Office of Advancement at firstname.lastname@example.org or 540-654-1024.