Four Irving ISD seniors are among the 1,464 scholars nationwide to receive a 2020 QuestBridge National College Match for full rides to one of the nation’s top universities. 

Matched students are admitted early to one of 42 QuestBridge college partners with full four-year scholarships valued at more than $200,000 that are provided by the colleges and universities. The generous financial aid package covers the full cost of attendance, including tuition, room and board, books and supplies, and travel expenses.

QuestBridge, a national nonprofit based in Palo Alto, Calif., connects the nation’s most exceptional, low-income youth with leading institutions of higher education and further life opportunities.

Read about each of Irving ISD’s four QuestBridge Scholars below:


Reem Abbas, MacArthur – Rice

For MacArthur senior Reem Abbas, matching with Rice University fulfills a dream she has had since first visiting the college during her freshman year. Determined to make her way to her dream school, Abbas did everything she could to prepare for the QuestBridge application, from attending college application prep courses to working with her teachers to perfect her essays.

“Through the whole process, I was more preparing myself not to match so I wouldn’t get super disappointed on Match Day,” says Abbas. “I was so surprised, but also I felt that all the work that I put into my application was finally being recognized.”

Abbas plans to study cell biology and genetics with hopes of participating in research projects and plans to one day become a pediatrician. Matching with this top university puts her one step closer to her goal of opening a clinic in her family’s hometown in Sudan.

Above all, she is excited to join the tight-knit community at Rice and continue making her dreams become reality. 


Victoria (Vicki) Gillespie, Irving – Notre Dame

Senior at Irving High and aspiring illustration artist Vicki Gillespie was in disbelief when she saw her match with Notre Dame. For months she has been chatting with QuestBridge finalists from across the nation, eagerly awaiting the notification that would confirm her match with a top school. 

“It was a giant roller coaster of emotions those couple of hours, waiting for the website to update. I think I checked the website five times because I was in disbelief at first. It means a lot to me,” says Gillespie.

Gillespie cites her English teacher and academic decathlon coach as inspiration for her decision to apply to QuestBridge. As she now sets her sights on her future at Notre Dame, she is looking forward to pursuing studies in either studio art or design. 

“I used to think it was impossible to go [to a top university] but QuestBridge gave me that opportunity, and I’m so thankful for that,” says Gillespie.


Serra Marquez, MacArthur – Notre Dame

Coming from a family of six, being matched through QuestBridge means the world to Serra Marquez, the eldest of the siblings.

“I know that my parents had absolutely no money to contribute for a college education,” she says. “I’ve grown up knowing I’ll have to work hard if college was my goal, and through QuestBridge I was able to accomplish this. I feel so blessed to be able to know that this weight has been lifted off my family’s shoulders, as well as provide me with a quality education that will help me in the real-world not only in my career, but in my personal life.”

At Notre Dame, Marquez plans to study civil engineering – a niche that has a deep connection to in more ways than one. 

“Entering my first day in engineering [at MacArthur], I realized this was the place I was meant to be,” she says. “Even though I was one out of four girls in a class of over 30 students, the engineering building was my instant home. It was quiet yet bustling with creativity and full of hardworking students constantly breaking down materials just to rebuild them into something even better. I found that I was like those materials – I had to be completely and utterly broken to be reformed into who I am today. There might be a few rough edges,, but I am going to be completely rebuilt someday. And by allowing my experiences to shape me, I know that I am going to be monumental.” 


Gayda Mohamed, Singley – Brown

Gayda Mohamed, senior at Singley Academy, was waiting patiently at home on Tuesday, December 1 to be notified of QuestBridge’s decision. She was surprised yet grateful to find out she was matched with Brown University. 

“The thought that I’m Ivy League-bound and will be a member of Brown’s Class of 2025 is still hard to believe,” she says.

Initially, she wasn’t planning on applying for the QuestBridge scholarship, but after being encouraged by her teachers and respect for QuestBridge’s values she decided to take a leap of faith. 

Currently, Gayda is enrolled in Singley’s EMT program, and she plans to continue her education as a pre-med health and human biology major at Brown. Upon completing her necessary requirements, she aspires to become a general surgeon.