College Access Plan Supports Two PUSD Gates Millennium Scholarship Finalists

Published : Friday, April 18, 2014 | 1:49 PM

Abigail Jacob of John Muir High School and Carlos Valladares of Blair High School. Photo courtesy College Access Plan

College Access Plan, a Pasadena nonprofit that provides free programs in college preparedness and success, has had the honor of supporting hundreds of underserved students who attend Pasadena’s public schools as they reach for their college dreams. This year, CAP assisted two students who have been selected as finalists for the Gates Millennium Scholars Program (GMS). Thousands of underrepresented minority students apply each year for the opportunities the GMS program offers. According to the GMS website, the program “selects 1,000 talented students each year to receive a good-through-graduation scholarship to use at any college or university of their choice.†Gates Scholars receive “personal and professional development through…leadership programs along with academic support throughout their college career.†(http://www.gmsp.org/). The application process includes writing eight personal essays and submitting transcripts and multiple recommendation letters.

Both Carlos Valladares, who attends Blair High School, and Abigail Jacob, who attends John Muir High School, first came to CAP with a determination to attend college that they cultivated at a young age, guided by older siblings who set examples by attending college or illustrating that hard work pays off.

Carlos’s parents, who immigrated from Honduras, support Carlos’s college dreams but never attended college themselves; it was Carlos’s older sisters who attended college and set an example that he is eager to follow.

While Abigail’s father attended college in the family’s home country, The Philippines, and her mother received a degree in the United States, family circumstances made it hard for her parents to help Abigail and her sisters navigate the complex college process. It was Abigail’s older sister who served as her role model, encouraging Abigail to work hard and pursue her dreams.

During their senior year, multiple CAP staff members provided a support system for these two exceptional students and their quest to become Gates Scholars. Although Carlos had heard of the GMS program, he thought he had virtually no chance of winning the honor until CAP Program Coordinator (and past Gates Millennium Scholar) Jeanny Fuentes encouraged him to apply. He says, “Jeanny convinced me and became one of the best proof-readers and mentors I’ve ever had.â€

Abigail notes having been directly influenced by the enthusiasm and encouragement of CAP’s Executive Director, Mo Hyman, and a number of CAP staff members. Abigail states, “CAP was actually the motivation I needed in writing the eight essays [required for the application]. It was the idea that there’s at least four people who believe that I had a chance in getting the scholarship and were ready to help me.â€

Opportunities Ahead

Carlos is excited about the potential to capitalize on the various GMS program opportunities that would be offered to him and his fellow students from underrepresented groups should he become a Gates Scholar. He is thrilled that he has made it this far in the process and notes, “I know that it places me in the pantheon of great scholarly minds before and after me.†Carlos will pursue a career in the critical study of the cinematic arts and hopes to one day to become a professor of film studies.

Abigail is also excited to meet the other Gates Scholars if she wins the award. She says, “These are amazing people who have overcome countless obstacles to get to a place in which they’re leaders who are pursuing and/or creating projects to make an impact on the world they live in.†Abigail plans to major in material science and engineering with a minor in bioengineering, and she wishes to promote STEM education to young girls and students from low-income backgrounds. When she goes to graduate school to work in a field related to human technology or stem cells, the GMS program will continue to support her there if she wins the prestigious award.

While both students first used CAP services during their junior year, they have appreciated CAP’s guidance and support during the college application process their senior year. Carlos credits CAP with helping him apply to schools and finding ways to stand out to university admissions as a future film scholar. Abigail received tips on how to identify schools that were good matches for her interests, help with revision of personal essays, and assistance with time management and schedules for due dates. She says CAP has been her “number one source for scholarship opportunities.â€

In the fall, Carlos will attend Stanford University and Abigail is headed to University of California at Berkeley. Both students have already received full-ride scholarships for their undergraduate degrees.

About College Access Plan

College Access Plan is an independent 501c3 nonprofit that prepares underserved students to succeed in college. Through partnerships with PUSD, Pasadena LEARNs, and other local agencies, CAP provides no-cost drop-in college readiness advisement and topic-specific workshops on site at four PUSD high schools as well as at Washington Middle School. CAP’s programs are open to all students who aspire to Dream Bigger about their futures.

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