Seven Irving ISD seniors are among the 5,613 scholars nationwide to be selected as QuestBridge National College Match Finalists.
Students who advance will “match” with one of 42 QuestBridge college partners and earn full four-year scholarships valued at more than $200,000. The generous financial aid package covers the full cost of attendance including tuition, room and board, books, supplies and travel expenses.
The scholarship winners will be announced on Thursday, December 1.
Read about each of Irving ISD’s QuestBridge Finalists below. Best of luck, students!
Golden Anni – Singley Academy
Life is all about the journey and perspective for Golden Anni. As she awaits the results of her QuestBridge application to eight schools – Stanford, Princeton, Yale, Rice, Notre Dame, Washington University in St. Louis, Northwestern and Duke – she is remaining optimistic and proud.
“Regardless of the outcome on Match Day, I am proud of how far I’ve come,” she says. “I can look back and see what all I’ve accomplished. This is what I’ve done, and I know there is more to accomplish. I’ll find the opportunities and keep taking advantage of what is offered to me because I know that in the past, these opportunities did not exist.”
Anni, a student on the medical pathway at Singley Academy, plans to pursue a career in medicine by majoring in biology with hopes of one day becoming an anesthesiologist.
In school, she has served as junior class officer, an Ambassador for her school, president of the Bible Club and vice president of the National Honor Society and National Technical Honor Society. She competes in HOSA (Health Occupation Students of America) and UIL spelling, ready writing and calculator applications.
She serves as a math tutor and volunteers at the South Irving Public Library and through her church.
“I love meeting new people. You don’t know who you’re going to meet next, and you draw your inspiration from people you meet and the places that you go. It’s a journey that I love being a part of.”
Ryan Garza, Singley Academy
For Ryan Garza, the motivation to apply for QuestBridge was two-fold – in honor of his parents and culture and to seize the opportunity – a defining characteristic for him.
“Some of my major inspirations are my parents and the Hispanic culture in general,” he says. “Many families come here from other countries, and the parents have all of these goals for their kids that they couldn’t accomplish, that they don’t have the opportunity to accomplish. Every time I see something that I can do that I know would help me, I take advantage. That’s why I did QuestBridge.”
Garza, who ranked eight schools – Duke, Brown, Colombia, Stanford, Yale, Princeton, University of Pennsylvania and the University of Southern California – plans to pursue a degree in mathematics and continue his education with a master’s in business. However, his ultimate goal is to be an actor.
In alignment with those ambitions, Garza is an active member of Singley’s theatre program, serving as Thespian Club president and performing in various productions, including UIL One-Act Play and dinner theatre.
Garza, who is on the culinary arts pathway at Singley, has also advanced to state in FCCLA and mock trial. He has served on the Superintendent’s Advisory Council, was inducted in the National Honor Society, and he also founded his school’s Cinema Club – all ways to help him grow.
“The main thing that I’ve always prioritized is my growth,” he says. “In middle school, I wasn’t a top student at the level that I wanted to be. My goal was to be valedictorian, but at the time that seemed extremely far-fetched because I wasn’t even in the top 10. Over time, I was driven so heavily, and I did everything that I could to become that and achieve that. And eventually I did. I worked very hard, and I learned the value of working smarter and that work ethic is greater than talent. If you’re simply relying on your talent, then you’re not going to go as far as someone who has a great work ethic. The only reason that I eventually achieved this goal is because I wanted it the most – not because I’m the smartest person.”
Harrison Nguyen, Nimitz High School
For Harrison Nguyen, video games provided him with not only an outlet to have fun, but also an avenue to communicate with his friends and family.
“Growing up, I didn’t really have the opportunity to go out that much, so video games were what helped me stay connected with my friends or my relatives who live far away,” says Nguyen.
Nguyen looks forward to continuing his education at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Stanford, Columbia or Rice, where he will study computer science.
He stays busy at school as a member of the track and cross country team, class council and National Honor Society.
“These have all been a really big part of my life,” says Nguyen. “They have not only motivated me to stay focused on my schoolwork, but have also pushed me to be more involved.”
Khoi Nguyen, MacArthur High School
Senior Khoi Nguyen is, quite literally, shooting for the stars. He grew up in Vietnam before moving six years ago to the United States, where he developed a love for all things technical.
After using 3D printers in the classroom, he and his friend founded the 3D Printing & Robotics Club so they would have more time to explore and innovate. He says “growing up in a different environment has made me really creative and given me a unique way of thinking”. He is also a member of the National Technical Honor Society and National Honor Society.
Nguyen hopes to continue his education at The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and pursue a degree in Aerospace Engineering to one day work on rockets for SpaceX or NASA.
Nguyen says his parents are the main motivation for his dreams, and he wants to honor the sacrifices they’ve made to support their family.
Julieta Rodriguez, Nimitz High School
Julieta Rodriguez grew up playing the video game Minecraft. As she got older, she became more intrigued with how it worked.
“At a certain point, I realized it was created through coding,” Rodriguez remembers. “I think it’s really cool if one day I can become the person who puts the image on the screen instead of the person who’s looking at it.”
Rodriguez hopes to continue her education at Stanford, Columbia or the University of Pennsylvania, where she will study computer science. The skills she learns there will propel her to design her own video game.
“I would like to pursue video game design, specifically the storytelling aspect, to create my own version of a game that’s similar to the Legend of Zelda,” she says.
Rodriguez credits her time in Academic Decathlon with helping her be better prepared for success in college.
“Academic Decathlon has helped me so much,” she says. “I can stand in front of class without being scared, I have developed better study habits, and I’m more comfortable being around others. I’m really excited to apply everything I learned to the rest of my life.”
Stephane Tatchim, Singley Academy
For Stephane Tatchim, the sky is not the limit when there is a whole universe to explore. Tatchim aspires acceptance to one of his eight ranked QuestBridge schools – the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Stanford, Cal Tech, Princeton, Rice, Duke, Yale and Columbia – to major in aerospace engineering or mechanical engineering with possible minors in business and physics.
“After that, I want to start a business in technology – build inventions, machines that can help people in the long run, and eventually I’ll build it up to the point where I can go to space,” he says. “But we’re not stopping at Mars – we’re going beyond.”
A student in the innovative technology pathway at Singley, Tatchim serves as president of his school’s STEM club and secretary of robotics club and competes in SkillsUSA and UIL ready writing and literary criticism. He also participates in theatre, earning an honorable mention medal at UIL competition last year. He is a member of the National Honor Society and serves as an Ambassador for his school. Outside of school, he is working toward his black belt in karate.
“I like to challenge myself,” he says. “That’s why I did QuestBridge. It’s pretty much my motivation for anything. I try and see if I can accomplish the task at hand.”
Karen Valladares Villatoro, Irving High School
Going out of state for college, let alone an Ivy League school, was never a thought in Karen Valladares Villatoro’s mind until now.
College, Career and Military Readiness Specialist Melissa Otero presented the scholarship opportunity to Valladares Villatoro, but she was initially reluctant to apply.
“After speaking with two of my teachers, Katherine Beach and Julia Glowacki, I was inspired to apply,” she says.
It’s teachers like these who she says have helped her prepare for the next step, specifically improving her time management skills – a necessity in college.
Currently, Valladares Villatoro is enrolled in Irving High’s business, marketing and finance program, and she hopes to continue her education as a business and marketing major at Stanford or Notre Dame. Upon completing her necessary requirements, she aspires to work in the marketing industry for a corporation.