Moffat County QuestBridge scholars to follow their dreams at prestigious colleges |

Moffat County QuestBridge scholars to follow their dreams at prestigious colleges

Moffat County teacher Sharon Skwarek joins college-bound seniors Diana Arellano, Haely Mendoza and Cristian Morales as part of a signing ceremony for students through the QuestBridge Scholarship on Wednesday, May 3.
Andy Bockelman/Craig Press

Moffat County High School staff, students and their family members were in attendance Wednesday afternoon for a signing ceremony for three college-bound seniors who are recipients of the prestigious QuestBridge National College Match Scholarship.

QuestBridge is a high-level academic funding program that has been operating for nearly 30 years to provide higher education for students facing financial disadvantages across the nation. MCHS teacher Sharon Skwarek worked to coordinate the application process for the trio and spoke on their behalf Wednesday.

“The competition for this scholarship is fierce, and being accepted is no easy feat,” she said.

Among the requirements for QuestBridge are maintaining at least a 3.94 unweighted grade-point average and a class ranking in the top 10%, along with other examples of strong character and hard work.

More than 15,000 students apply for the program that guarantees a full four-year financial backing that covers tuition, books, room and board, and travel. A total 1,755 members of the Class of 2023 were selected.

Skwarek said the three Moffat County students — Diana Arellano, Haely Mendoza and Cristian Morales — had collectively earned funding in the high six figures.

“It’s a truly transformative experience, one that can change the course of a person’s life,” she said. “It opens doors that might otherwise remain closed. I’m so very proud of all three of you. You have done the incredible.”

The three scholars first applied for the program as juniors but didn’t officially learn they were selected until months later, just around the holidays. Arellano said that she wasn’t optimistic until she received the correspondence, and even then, she still wasn’t convinced.

“I didn’t think I was going to get this scholarship,” she said. “All my hopes were out the window on decision day. I thought it would be bad news, and when I opened it, I thought, ‘There’s no way this is real.'”

With several dozen colleges and universities part of the QuestBridge network, scholarship recipients “match” with the school that is highest on a list of the programs they’d most like to attend.

During the signing, Mendoza was seated at a table flanked with green and white balloons in honor of Dartmouth College, which is among several Ivy League schools in the QuestBridge network, as well as Brown, Princeton and Yale.

Though she doesn’t have a definitive career plan laid out, Mendoza said she hopes to go into government or law.

The Questbridge program encourages first-generation Americans and children of immigrants to apply. Mendoza’s father is originally from Mexico, and she will be the first in her family to go to college.

“It feels crazy, but it’s a really good feeling,” Mendoza said. “A big thank you to Miss Skwarek. She really made everything happen.”

While Mendoza is heading to New England this fall, so will one of her fellow scholars. Arellano will attend Boston College, as the opportunity to be in an East Coast metropolis was a big selling point.

“I really wanted to live in a big city, and I thought that would be a good place to do it. It seemed like a good location and it’s pretty chill,” Arellano said. “Boston College is in Chestnut Hill, so I can still have this area right next to a big city and be around more people.”

Arellano’s plans are to pursue a career in medicine.

Morales will also be headed for a new area of the country at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota. He achieved considerable scholarship funds through the school apart from the QuestBridge money.

Though Macalester is in the Twin Cities metro area, it is a small private school with a student body of only about 2,200 undergrads. Still, he’s up for the challenge of higher expectations.

“It’ll be a little bit harder, and it will definitely be a little bit bigger than here,” Morales said.

His plans are to study environmental science and maybe conservation science.

“I’m very excited to expand my knowledge, because I love science,” he said.

Skwarek was thrilled that each of the students she had pushed to apply made the cut, and she added that seeing Arellano, Mendoza and Morales make such big leaps has inspired her.

“These guys are my guiding lights,” Skwarek said.

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