WHITTIER – Surfing the Net a couple of weekends ago might make Whittier resident Nora Flores $10,000 richer. The 23-year-old receptionist said she was looking for information on the Univision Web site when she came upon an essay contest. “I had always wanted to enter one, and the theme of the essay interested me,” Flores said Wednesday. What she stumbled upon was the DeVry University’s “Mi Gente Con Mente” essay contest. Devry is sponsoring a contest by the Latino social network that asks entrants to answer “What is the value of a higher education and how is it important to the Latino community?” One of the more than 400 contestants included Flores, who is attending Fullerton College full time and is a sociology major. “I never thought I’d be a finalist, especially since I didn’t give it much thought after I wrote the essay,” she said. All 10 finalists will each receive $1,000, and the grand prize winner will receive $10,000 toward an education. The winner will be determined by public voting, which began Sept. 14 and ends Sept. 30. The winner will be announced Oct. 8. Flores estimates she took about 30 to 40 minutes to write what education means to her and the Latino community. “I just started typing in the box, and then I submitted after reading it once and making one or two changes,” she said. Her answer to the question is personal, she said, unlike some of the other nine finalists. “I spoke from the heart about what education means to me and my family,” said Flores, who is the first in her family to attend college. She wrote that education is only a word for some, while to her, like so many in the Latino community, it is the answer to questions about a successful future. Flores’ parents, Catalina, 47, and Benjamin, 48, both dropped out of school before they reached high school, but they have always stressed the importance of an education. “They work so hard for our family, but cannot afford to send us all to college.” She has two younger sisters, ages 21 and 10, and a younger brother, 16. Flores has a full-time job at a local business to pay for college. She is like so many young people trying to pay for an education, which is why DeVry is sponsoring the contest. “Unfortunately, there is much concern about Hispanics being underserved by the traditional college system,” said DeVry University spokesperson Dan Dement. “It’s DeVry’s goal to empower Latinos to seize educational opportunities wherever they may be to make positive impacts both in their communities as their own lives.” It’s also a way, he said, for the school to give back to a community that has supported it for a long time. “DeVry is the leading producer of Hispanic graduates earning bachelor’s degrees in the field of computer and information sciences in the country,” Dement said. And because of the support of her family, Flores will not quit school no matter the outcome of the contest. “I hope people vote for me,” she said, “but I will be in school until I get my degree.” She wants to use a sociology degree to go into the human services field to help others find their way. [email protected] (562) 698-0955, Ext. 3028160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!