It’s time for Bill De La Rosa’s mom to stop fasting.

Gloria Arellano De La Rosa and her church members in Nogales, Sonora were fasting to help Bill’s chances at winning the prestigious Marshall Scholarship, which brings with it a full-ride to the University of Oxford in England.

Bill called her up in late November to tell her the good news: The letter arrived from the British Embassy saying he won the scholarship, one of about 30 selected nationwide out of more than 900 applicants who showed academic excellence and were endorsed by their university.

“I told her ‘Now you can eat. No more fasting. It’s time for feasting,’” Bill said from Washington, D.C., where he works in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Office of Refugee Resettlement in Texas.

Bill’s mother, a native of Mexico, has been stuck in Nogales, Sonora since 2009. She went to Juarez, Mexico to arrange her immigration papers, but instead she was told she could not return to the United States for 10 years.

For the past seven years, the De La Rosa family has done the best it can in Tucson, as the Star reported in the “Divided by Law” series in September 2015.

Since he was awarded the scholarship, Bill De La Rosa said he has been in “constant reflection on where I come from and who my parents are and where I grew up, the opportunities I’ve had along the way.”

The 2012 valedictorian of Pueblo Magnet High School, 2016 graduate of Bowdoin College, and recipient of multiple academic honors said he plans to pursue a master’s degree in migration studies the first year at Oxford and then might branch out into global diplomacy and international collaboration in his second year.

Prior to the Nov. 8 presidential election, De La Rosa planned to be an advocate for migrant rights and help put a human face on immigration.

Since the election of President-elect Donald Trump, De La Rosa is thinking about running for elected office in order to “help change the rhetoric and be a counterpunch to the voices we’re hearing.”

De La Rosa said his mother, who never attended high school, started crying when she heard about the scholarship, telling him: “’If you knew how I grew up. If you saw pictures of me in Mexico, barefoot. And now you’re going to Oxford.’”

For his sister and two brothers who went to the same Tucson schools that he did, De La Rosa said he thinks the award of the scholarship is “opening their eyes and empowering them.”

He hopes it has a similar effect on anybody who hears about the scholarship and prompts them to ask: “If he can do it, then why can’t I?”

Contact Curt Prendergast at or 573-4224. On Twitter @CurtTucsonStar.