GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A Grand Rapids Public Schools student has earned a highly competitive Gates Scholarship, allowing her to attend a university of her choice on a full ride.
The Gates Scholarship is supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It’s reserved for outstanding minority high school seniors across the country.
It’s been a whirlwind of emotions for Grand Rapids University Preparatory Academy senior Jaylynne Calderon-Monterroso.
“I remember kind of screaming a little and I’m at a table with a group of people who don’t even know who I am,” Calderon-Monterroso said.
Those screams she described were ones of joy, after learning that she earned a Gates Scholarship. Each year, only 300 students out of thousands of applicants are chosen for the honor.
“It was a relief to think about I won’t have to focus on the finances going through college,” Calderon-Monterroso said.
Academically, Calderon-Monterroso is a class valedictorian but it’s also her extracurricular involvement that sets her apart.
“Jaylynne has been an advocate scholar, starting off with the Mayor Youth Council, being a part of the National Honor Society and even being our class president,” said Kenyatta Hill-Hall, principal at Grand Rapids University Preparatory Academy.
She’s also an advocate for mental health awareness.
Calderon-Monterroso was one of the students responsible for bringing a social-emotional wellness room to Grand Rapids Preparatory University Preparatory Academy, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s great to see that something came from our scholars because of their voice and because of their advocacy and because of scholars like Jaylynne,” Hill-Hall said.
Jaylynne’s parents came to the United States from Guatemala, building their new life from the ground up. She said her parents’ journey makes her accomplishment that much sweeter.
“My parents first came with literally nothing and they kind of grew it from there. They got a house which was really nice for us,” Calderon-Monterroso said. “To be able to achieve that and to be able to share that with my parents is something I could have never imagined.”
This fall, Calderon-Monterroso will attend the University of Notre Dame. While at the university, she wants to stay connected to her roots and become a part of Notre Dame’s Latino Study Scholars program.
“How some of them are going to give talks in Guatemala or other cities in Central America was important for me,” Calderon-Monterroso said.
Calderon-Monterroso added that she couldn’t have earned the scholarship without the support of teachers and school staff over the years.
She also plans to keep making a difference in West Michigan while she’s in college.