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Mary Ann Uribe Scholarship Essay

By Carl Azuz, CNN

(CNN) It’s not a new debate by any stretch, but a renewed effort - and court case - are putting it back in the spotlight.  Some of California’s African-American and Latino students are hoping a federal appeals court will allow public universities to consider race when admitting new students.

Affirmative action in California’s public agencies has been banned for 16 years.

In Proposition 209, voters decided that race shouldn’t be a deciding factor.  The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Prop 209 in 1997, and the California Supreme Court has upheld it twice.

But the issue is back in front of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court for several reasons.  Civil rights advocates who want the ban overturned point to a pair of cases:  A 2003 U.S. Supreme Court ruling allowed law schools to consider race in admissions, and a 2011 federal appeals court ruling overturned Michigan’s ban on considering race in higher education.  California’s Democratic governor, Jerry Brown, supports the effort to overturn Prop 209; during the last legal battle, the state’s Republican governor, Pete Wilson, supported the ban.

The latest California case was filed on behalf of dozens of African-American and Latino students. Many of them argue that the high schools they attended didn’t adequately prepare them for the admissions standards of California’s university system.  They believe that allowing affirmative action will increase their numbers on state campuses.

But Asian-Americans, another minority, are well represented at some California universities.  At the University of California Berkeley campus, for example, 43% of 2010 undergraduates were Asian, while 33% were white.  At UCLA, the number of Asian-American undergraduates enrolled last fall exceeded the number of non-Hispanic whites by almost 1,500 students.  Those who don’t want race to be a factor in college admissions could argue that if affirmative action is unnecessary for some minority groups, how can the law be changed to legally benefit others?

It’s possible that the U.S. Supreme Court could have the last word on this.  If an appeals court in Michigan says race can be a factor there, but a court in California says it cannot, it may take the nation’s top justices to resolve the dispute.

Texas mother MaryAnne Uribe was awarded a $25,000 scholarship by the adult website Pornhub after submitting a video essay detailing how she has helped others. (MaryAnn Uribe)

MaryAnn Uribe, dropped out of high school and for years struggled to complete her education. Life, the 48-year-old Texas mother said, got in the way.

She decided on a whim in late October to jumpstart her mid-life journey to a college degree by applying for a scholarship she heard about from a radio station: A $25,000 offer from an X-rated adult website called Pornhub.

Now Uribe, who recently finished a two-year program at a community college in San Antonio, will seek a bachelor’s degree from Alabama’s Troy University with the help of the scholarship money.

Pornhub.com, which touts 78.9 billion online video views each year, is one of the most-viewed pornography sites on the Internet, and it started the scholarship offer this summer as part of expanded philanthropic efforts.

The scholarship offer immediately drew fire from feminism activist groups, which said they have concerns that the campaign was a thinly veiled ploy to exploit young women who are struggling to pay the rising costs of higher education.

Corey Price, vice president of Pornhub, said that Uribe’s application stood out from the 1,000 others the website received, mostly for her compelling personal essay that described her grit and can-do attitude in the face of adversity.

A screengrab from pornhub.com promoting the scholarship contest.

“We were looking for someone who spread happiness and effected positive change,” Price said. “She’s been through a lot. … When negative things happened, she really stood up for herself.”

In 2011, Uribe was working as an administrator at a San Antonio law firm when she reported her bosses to authorities for allegedly committing felony barratry, a crime in Texas that prohibits lawyers from soliciting clients for financial gain.

Desperate to silence Uribe as a witness and stung by betrayal, one of the lawyers then allegedly hatched a plot to have Uribe killed. The murder-for-hire scheme unraveled after the would-be hitman went to the Texas Rangers. Wearing a wire, the informant caught the lawyer on tape saying that he “wanted something to happen to Uribe,” according to an affidavit, and agreed to pay for it. The lawyer resigned from the state bar and is scheduled to go on trial in Bexar County, Tex., in April 2016 on charges of solicitation of capital murder and barratry. His law partner will go on trial for barratry charges in April 2016.

[Porn site offers scholarship, asking students how they strive to make other happy]

The lawyers have denied the allegations and described Uribe as a disgruntled employee.

Uribe said that the episode caused her significant emotional distress. She now speaks with a stutter and suffers from agoraphobia, afraid that going outside she may be killed.

“Every little thing sets me off — strange voices or the dog barking or the postman knocking,” Uribe said. “It can send me to the floor.”

Nonetheless, Uribe said, she wants justice served against her former employers.

“I’m very outspoken even though now my speech is impaired,” Uribe said. “I fight for those who can’t.”

Price said that Uribe’s self-effacing personality came across in her application. In a video she made for the application, Uribe read messages from her friends describing Uribe’s efforts to brighten their day. In the video, Uribe said that her friends described her as loyal, the kind of person that can be called on a moment’s notice to help out. Uribe said that she’s also known for her kindness and willingness to stick up for those in need.

Finishing her degree, Uribe said, is a goal that will provide her personal fulfillment and happiness.

“I have to be strong,” Uribe said. “If I quit college, I let them win.”

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