It didn’t take long for Bishop Noll senior David Mendoza to do the math.
“Only 6.4 percent were able to get a full ride,” he said after finding out he and fellow Noll classmate Rebecca Vazquez had received a full scholarship from the QuestBridge National College Match Scholarship program, which connects high-achieving, low-income high school seniors to the nation’s top colleges. This year, the program received 16,249 applications and only selected 1,044 students.
“Knowing that I am about 1 in 16 is just crazy, and it is an honor to receive this honor,” said Mendoza, of Hammond, who was matched to Swarthmore College, which has an 11 percent acceptance rate.
College Match Scholarship recipients are admitted early to QuestBridge college partners with guaranteed, full four-year scholarships that are provided by the colleges and universities, ensuring these students and their families that an education at a top college can be affordable.
The St. John Bosco alum plans to major in engineering and minor in Spanish.
“I am excited to meet new people and experience a new environment. I’ve lived in Chicago all my life, and I just want to experience something new for the next four years.”
Mendoza joked that his favorite part about Bishop Noll was leaving every day after school.
“In all seriousness, everything I experienced in my years here was great. From my cross country memories with coach Sal (Cordova) and the Repays (Karl and Nancy) to Biology Club with Ms. (Rebecca) Dostatni to all my friends congratulating me for getting this full ride, everyone has been supportive, and I wouldn’t trade my high school experience for anything.”
Mendoza said Dostatni and math teacher Mark Miller were two of his inspirations at Noll.
“Ms. Dostatni was the first person I told when I got the letter, and she has been there for me ever since I was a freshman. She has an amazing passion for biology that it makes me more interested in it. Mr. Miller has taught me math for three years, and he always pushes me to do my best. I don’t think I ever got a B on one of his tests, and I am currently taking AP calculus.”
Vazquez, also of Hammond, was matched to the University of Chicago, which has an 8.7% acceptance rate. The St. Casimir School alumna burst into tears when she heard the news.
“Now, I’m just in disbelief. It doesn’t feel real, and it was never something that I thought I would be able to accomplish.”
She plans to study biology and may pursue a career as a researcher or physician but is keeping her options open.
“I can’t wait to make new friends at UChicago and participate in the social events. I’m also excited for my future classes; hopefully they’ll be super interesting.”
At Bishop Noll, she enjoyed her science classes and was also inspired by Dostatni, who she says always worked to get students involved in biology programs in and outside of Noll.
“I’ve always enjoyed my teachers and classmates,” Vazquez said. “School can be boring but good people make it better. I’m really happy with the friends I’ve made, and hope that I can be friends with these people for a while. All of my teachers have also been very good to me and were influential in their own way in shaping my school experience. … without everyone (at Noll) I wouldn’t have been able to get the scholarship. I am super grateful to all of my Bishop Noll family for being with me along the way.”
Vazquez said her main inspiration in pursuing the scholarship was her family.
“I wanted to make my parents proud and give my siblings someone good to look up to. I feel like I’ve done that.”