Last month, Sonny Jefferson, a senior at St. Genevieve High School in Panorama City, was chosen the winner of a fully funded trip to Tokyo, Japan.

Jefferson’s winning 1,000-word essay was selected out of 227 applicants, making her the winner of the “Discover Asia Correspondent Contest,” sponsored by the Los Angeles Times HS Insider. Both high school and college students competed for the travel prize by writing about what sparked their interest in Asian culture.

Jefferson, the daughter of two disabled parents, has experienced financial hardship throughout her life. She writes in her essay that discovering anime provided a means of escape and made her dream of traveling, something that was never feasible for her impoverished family.

“My family is unable to afford even the basic necessities in life,” she writes. “Therefore, at times I knew that this fascination and dream of experiencing Japan’s unique and dynamic culture was only that: a dream.”

Jefferson is also a Catholic Education Foundation scholar. CEF is a scholarship foundation that supports Catholic education in grades K-12.