Venezuelan Student Succeeds Amid Challenges in South Florida

When Yulianna Charris moved from Venezuela to South Florida, she didn't know English and didn't have any family or friends with her.

Just two years later, Charris has managed to learn English, land a prestigious internship in Silicon Valley and become one of her college's top volleyball champs -- all while maintaining a 4.0 GPA.

"At first it was challenging ..." Charris told NBC 6. "I was just looking for a new and better opportunity, but it hasn't been that difficult. I've had so many people that has helped me through the process. That helps me feel like home."

Charris is a junior on a full-ride scholarship at Florida Memorial University, a historically black college in Miami Gardens. 

"This school particularly gave me an opportunity of a full-ride scholarship," she said. "And honestly with the situation in my country, I couldn’t afford any other place. And I was really grateful for that."

Raised in Venezuela's capital of Caracas, Charris sought more opportunities outside of her home country, amidst the political and economic turmoil that ails the nation.

As a finance major, Charris was invited to attend the Bloomberg Diversity Summit in New York City. A glass display case exhibiting her accomplishments sits in the college library -- a place where she spends more than an average amount of time.

"When I came here, it was really difficult for my parents to support me, and then I got this job at the library and it’s been great because it’s helped me so much," she said.

Aware of the struggles of her friends and family back home, Charris stands in solidarity with the African American community in this country — from whose experience she has learned a great deal during her time at Florida Memorial University. She hopes her country can begin to overcome some of its obstacles as well.

“Hopefully, it happens like this school. It’s still over here, you know, fighting. Still up. And like, right now it would be an example to keep fighting and hopefully, in some years, we’ll be out of that," she said. "We’ll overcome all those obstacles.”

After graduating with a bachelor's degree in finance, Charris plans to go on to obtain her MBA.

Contact Us