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Gates Millennium Scholar Reflects on NMC Upward Bound Experience

Posted by Ashley Bails Friday, Sep. 21, 2012

Juan Carlos Chavez is a former Nebraska Methodist College Upward Bound student. He graduated from Omaha Burke High School in 2012 and earned a prestigious Gates Millenium Scholarship, a full ride to a college of his choosing. He took a few moments to reflect on his experiences as an Upward Bound student and his road to college.

Upward Bound: My Sanctum for Motivation


Juan Carlos Chavez, now a freshman at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, CA.

While I was a part of the Creighton Talent Search Program I’d heard about the Upward Bound Program, and little did I know they had the program at my high school. My brother grabbed a couple applications from a friend who said the program was amazing.

The best part about joining the program was the people I met: the counselors, mentors, and other students like myself. When senior year came around, Upward Bound became my sanctum to concentrate on my academics, scholarships, and most importantly for some motivation to complete it all.

Upward bound helped me complete my FAFSA, which is crucial to the Gates Millennium Scholarship and also helped me send endless documents to the foundation! In addition, they also provided me with a huge list of scholarships that I could work on as well. One of the big factors that helped me was the push of one of the students at the program. He was constantly working hard on his academics, working on scholarships, and also was a part of sports and it motivated me to work as hard or even harder. We became close friends and pushed ourselves to do better. So even the environment of Upward Bound with the people help motivate me to work hard on these scholarships, especially the Gates Millennium Scholarship.

Getting the Scholarship

It started off scary, stressful, and so it was so crucial that it worried me. My motivation was that my brother received a scholarship, and he assured me that if he can do it, that I can. I started researching scholarships the summer after my junior year. I had a goal that I wanted to complete 25 scholarship applications by the end of my senior year. Another goal I set was applying to at least 10 schools by the end of my first semester. (I didn’t reach it but trying to helped.)

My priorities for my senior year were: Scholarships, college apps, schoolwork, family, clubs, friends, food, and lastly, sleep! I must admit, it took a lot of determination, constant self-motivation, and sacrifice. If you would ask my parents they would tell you how they would come home to me sleeping on the floor next to the computer with scholarship essays up on the computer, and it was tough.

There are a lot of mixed emotions that come with the whole process, like throwing your hands up and shouting “I GIVE UP!” but I had to keeping reminding myself what I was working for and no doubt in my mind I know now that it was all worth it.

Welcome to the GMS Family

The day I received the package in the mail, my mom called and told me she wanted to wait for me to get home to open it. My mother, father, brother, and his girlfriend stood around while I opened the letter. I opened the folder, and read the first words on the paper, “Congratulation’s…. Welcome to the GMS Family.”

It’s hard to find words to describe the moment, but after I read those words, a chill feeling ran down my spine, I dropped everything, jumped up, and hugged my mom while tears of joy ran down her cheek. My father, brother, and his girlfriend joined in a group hug. Personally, I felt everything I worked for finally paid off.

The scholarship still means a lot since my parents didn’t have the chance to go to college because of financial obstacles. My brother and I are not only the first generation in our family to go to college, but the first to go with a full ride. This was the life our grandparents set out for us, while risking their lives to come to the promise land. Earning the Gates Millennium Scholarship is not only a relief when fighting financial barriers, but a relief in opening opportunity for my family’s future generation.

Making the Most of College

I am now studying computer science at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. Its been different moving away from my family and friends and living in a city unknown, but its been new, amazing, and a lot of fun at the same time. I stay extremely busy as I am apart of Residential Housing Association working as the Marketing Chair. I have applied to work as an event technician, graphic designer, and I’m also part of the Tennis club, Breakdancing club, and currently checking out fraternities to be join in the spring.

My future goals now are to network with others, study hard, and eventually I want to start my own business! I hope to start looking into grad school so I have my choices open when comes around time deciding. But as of now I’m just working hard to receive good grades for my first semester, join some service projects, and enjoy my first year as a college student.

The NMC Upward Bound program is funded through a $1.25 million grant from the United States Department of Education. Through tutoring and mentoring, Upward Bound attempts to increase rates at which its participants complete high school, as well as instill the skills and motivation necessary to enroll in, and graduate from, a post-secondary education program.

Topics: community outreach, financial aid, upward bound, scholarships

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