The path to a higher education is commonly blocked, not by the ability of the student or the desire, but rather the financial bridge that isn’t there to connect to the two.
For Pueblo County High School student Diego Hernandez Portillo, that bridge has been built thanks to a full ride scholarship awarded to the School of Engineering and Biomedical Science (SEBS) standout.
A nonprofit based in Palo Alto, Calif., QuestBridge, awards full ride scholarships every year to its partnering universities such Stanford, Duke, Yale and Columbia, and specifically aims at awarding them to students in low-income families.
Out of the 18,500 applicants this year, 6,885 finalists were chosen and 1,464 scholarships were awarded.
One of those scholarships was earned by Hernandez Portillo thanks to his consistent effort throughout the process and determination to achieve his goals.
“The process of applying for this scholarship was difficult in more ways than expected,” Hernandez Portillo said. “Of course, it was arduous completing all the essays and replying to 12 different colleges requirements at the same time, but in order to truly have a chance at this scholarship I had to look within myself and find my truth.
“To be true to yourself is important for colleges to see the real you and connect with you on a deeper level that allows them to want to welcome you into the family that is their college.”
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Hernandez Portillo’s new family will be at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Va., a small private institution that is one of the oldest universities in the country.
Getting the chance to work at a smaller college is what drew Hernandez Portillo to Washington and Lee as he will get the chance to make deeper connections with professors and fellow students.
The graduating senior is set to pursue a degree in either biology or chemistry to advance himself in his ultimate goal of working in the medical field and helping change others’ lives.
“For people like me, who come from underprivileged communities, it is hard to imagine a successful future that is often reserved for those who have tutors and the money for college,” Hernandez Portillo said. “But by becoming a doctor I would hope to make a difference in other people’s lives and return the gratitude that the world has given to me.”
The path to receiving this scholarship has been far from easy for Hernandez Portillo, especially considering he will be the first generation of his family to go to college.
The senior also is in line to be valedictorian of the 2021 class. He has also battled adversity and overcome several obstacles that go along with being a gay, Hispanic student in today’s society.
“Being valedictorian had been my goal since day one of high school because I had no fear greater than being considered ordinary,” Hernandez Portillo said. “But, as I grew older I understood that life is much more than simply the work you put into school. I still wish to be extraordinary, but I will never overlook the value of the simple things life has to offer.”
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Those simple things are what have driven Hernandez Portillo to pursue a goal in the medical field and to ultimately give back to the community and people who have helped shape him.
And most importantly, he gets to do it all without adding burden to the hard working family that has pushed him to this point.
“I am the first generation of my family to go to college,” Hernandez Portillo said. “By having received this full ride, it is my chance to change the world. Without the worry of having enough money to go to college or work a job while going to college, I will be able to focus on becoming the person I am meant to be.”
That person Hernandez Portillo is meant to be is already inside of the Pueblo County senior.
And thanks to his hard work and dedication, a bridge has been built for him to cross over into the man he has always meant to become.
“I never expected much from life and to have gotten such a gracious award is validation for the trials that I’ve been through,” Hernandez Portillo said. “I have nothing but gratitude to QuestBridge and Washington and Lee for giving me, a proud first generation Hispanic gay student, the chance at a good life.”
Chieftain sports reporter Austin White can be reached by email at email@example.com or on Twitter at twitter.com/ajw_sports. Help support the Chieftain and get the latest news on prep sports with a digital subscription.
The post “Pueblo County senior Diego Hernandez Portillo, scholarship from QuestBridge” Was originally published on www.chieftain.com