YES Prep Public Schools
QuestBridge 2020 YES Prep 5 Scholars

QuestBridge is a national nonprofit that connects the nation’s most exceptional, low-income youth with leading colleges and opportunities. By working with these students — beginning in high school through college to their first job —QuestBridge aims to increase the percentage of talented students from underserved communities attending the nation’s best colleges and to support them to achieve success in their careers and communities.

The National College Match is a college admission and scholarship process through which qualifying high school seniors can be admitted early with full four-year scholarships to one of the QuestBridge college partners. This National College Match closed in late September and we are happy to announce that eleven YES Prep students from seven different campuses were matched with colleges and universities across the nation. Out of more than 18,500 applications, only 1,464 students were matched with one of the program's 42 college partners.

As for the role that YES Prep counselors play, YES Prep Northbrook High School’s college counselor, Maureen Gonzalez, shares how they prepared students for this process. “In preparation for QuestBridge, seniors were individually selected by the YES Prep Northbrook High School College Initiatives Team for their high, academic credentials. Those seniors were informed of the program and offered continuous one-on-one advising throughout the application process leading up to the deadline. Parents were included throughout the process to ensure students were providing the most accurate information on their application and that they were comfortable with the QuestBridge institutions that, if matched, would be bound by contract to attend. The director of college counseling, college counselors and teachers all helped exemplify the character and rationale behind why the students are wholeheartedly deserving of the scholarship funding through heartfelt recommendations.”

Presenting YES Prep’s QuestBridge Scholars

Below, our QuestBridge scholars tells us what this opportunity means to them and their college counselor also share a few words.

Maristhela Alvarez Benitez, YES Prep Brays Oaks

Matched at Amherst College in Amherst, Massachusetts
student in black shirt

“Knowing I got matched is something I still can't get through my head. I feel like all my hard work finally paid off. Thanks to QuestBridge I have the opportunity to push myself out of my comfort zone, academically and culturally, without the financial burden weighing over my or my family’s shoulder. I know that this will serve as an outlet that will help me become the successful person I see myself being.”

From her college counselor, Faye Roohi: “Maristhela has been one of the most tenacious and courageous students I've worked with through the QuestBridge process! Every time she had a question, she didn't hesitate to reach out. Every bump in the road was met with a laugh, a shoulder shrug and the knowledge that it would all be worth it if she won! Maristhela is incredibly deserving, not only because of her work throughout the application process but because of every ounce of hard work from the beginning of high school until now! Congratulations to our FIRST EVER Brays Oaks QuestBridge Scholar! You will do amazing things in this world Mari, and I'm totally here for it!”

Nayla Mejia, YES Prep East End

Matched at Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa
student in yellow shirt

“Being awarded this scholarship opens many doors I never thought I would be able to open. Every year when spring trips came around, I was never able to afford to even visit a college, let alone attend one. I knew I had to work hard in order to get into a good school and to be given scholarships, but never in a million years would I have thought to earn a full four-year scholarship to college. I am so very grateful for this opportunity, and excited to start the next chapter in my life at Grinnell.”

From their college counselor, Katie Boyle: “Nayla worked incredibly hard on her college applications and really took the lead on her QuestBridge application process. She asked thoughtful questions and was incredibly receptive to feedback. Throughout the process, she proved that she was a perfect candidate for QuestBridge, and I am beyond proud of her for achieving this great honor! Nayla is so deserving and will undoubtedly take advantage of every opportunity offered to her at Grinnell!”

Carlos Hernandez, YES Prep Gulfton

Matched at Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, California

“When I first learned I had matched with Claremont McKenna, my first thought was ’All of my hard work has been validated’. To me, the QuestBridge scholarship meant all the work my family, my teachers, my friends, and I put into my education had paid off. Of course, this isn't the last accomplishment and my work has only just begun, but at that moment, elation was the only thing on my mind. My fears were washed away, and I grew hopeful for a brighter future.”

From his college counselor, Lilibeth Marroquin: “I knew, as Carlos’ math teacher in sixth grade, that he was capable of anything he set his mind to. I remember staying late on a Friday afternoon during his sophomore year to finish his application for SEGL (The School for Ethics and Global Leadership) and even though it was the day of the deadline, he was fully prepared to have an exceptional application that stood out and awarded him a semester in D.C. the following year. So I wasn’t surprised when he was interested in QuestBridge and had high-quality essays and supplements. I know how much these students have worked throughout their years at Gulfton in order to be at the top of their class and now have become Gulfton’s first QuestBridge Scholars!”

Mariel Almazan, YES Prep Gulfton

Matched at Rice University in Houston, Texas

Honestly, it’s incredible that I got chosen. I was so nervous the day before that I had a hard time going to sleep! Here was something I had unknowingly been working YEARS for, a scholarship I never knew existed. But now it was here, and my fate lay with universities I had only heard about in reverence. I'm so relieved my parents will never have to pay a cent for my education. I'm so happy and excited for what lies ahead, whatever the future might grant me next.

From her college counselor, Laura Villafranca: “At first, I was unsure about Mariel applying to QuestBridge because she was weighing several options and I didn't want to limit her. She was persistent and put forth all the effort in order to have a competitive application which lead her to match with my alma mater, Rice University.”

Natalie Vazquez, YES Prep Northbrook

Matched at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia

“Thanks to QuestBridge, I can further my education without the lingering fear of becoming hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. I have become a part of a community of kids who are so supportive and who want to make the world a better place. I am going to graduate from one of the top schools in the country, ready to take on what medical school has to offer, and I still have not completely come to terms with it. I know my future is full of opportunity and I can’t wait to see what Atlanta has to offer.”

Isabel Gonzales, YES Prep Northbrook

Matched at University of Norte Dame in Norte Dame, Indiana

“It is an honor being able to receive this scholarship as a first-generation, low-income student. Not only are financial burdens taken away, but I am also bringing pride to the family, leading younger ones, and setting an example for minorities like me that access to a prestigious university is possible. If there’s anything I’ve learned through QuestBridge it’s that one's hard work, determination, and faith does not go unnoticed and will be worth it in the end.”

Victor Trejo Gonzalez, YES Prep Northbrook

Matched at University of Norte Dame in Norte Dame, Indiana

“The QuestBridge Scholarship means everything to me! Growing up I had big dreams to break stereotypes and bring change for Hispanics like me. And, through this scholarship, I can fulfill my dream of attending a top university without paying anything! I am beyond blessed for this opportunity and I can’t thank my counselors and everyone that helped me get to where I am today enough! I am so excited to attend the University of Notre Dame and make the most out of it. I’ve been waiting my whole life for this point and I cannot believe it’s all happening! Go Irish!”

From their college counselor, Maureen Gonzalez: “Natalie, Isabel and Victor are wholeheartedly deserving of the scholarship. Their combination of dedication and the passion they exemplify towards their future has been rewarding to witness."

Gerardo Perez, YES Prep North Forest

Matched at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois

"QuestBridge is a very surreal opportunity. Thanks to their advocacy for students in need, many individuals from underserved communities get to go to college. It is a privilege to receive this scholarship and to see college as a concrete opportunity. Thank you, QuestBridge."

From his college counselor, Whitney Dale: “I went from working to coerce Gerardo to apply to QuestBridge to receiving his message saying ‘Ms. Dale, I am a QuestBridge finalist, I am feeling out of this world!’ To finally getting the ‘Ms. Dale, I got matched with Northwestern University!’ message from him to which I responded ’OMG, are you happy with your match?’, to him answering ’ABSOLUTELY!!!!’ If you get to know Gerardo, you will know he is ‘as cool as the other side of the pillow’. He is a great student, with a calm easy demeanor, not easily excited, about much of anything. I am not sure if it was nerves or what that caused him to hesitate on applying, but what I do know is applying was the best decision ever for him and to see him truly happy and using words like ‘ABSOLUTELY’” to show his excitement about being matched for QuestBridge allows me to see the doors that can open up when our students apply themselves the way we know is possible. Congratulations, Gerardo!" 

Yenifer Alvarez Munoz, YES Prep North Forest

Matched at Washington University in St. Louis in St. Louis, Missouri

“This scholarship is a door that has opened up another opportunity for me. It is a way to reward my parents for their sacrifice while also benefiting me and my future. I am very excited to begin a new journey, in college without having to worry about the financial burden my parents would have to carry. I am beyond grateful for this opportunity life has given me.”

From her Director of College Counselor, Anne Pugh: “Yenifer is a student who fully embodies the "Whatever it takes" mentality that YES Prep ascribes to. During the application process for QuestBridge, Yenifer not only stayed on top of her own deadlines, but mine as well. She is one of the most professional and prepared students who has a mind for community and helping others. I am so proud of her and this achievement, she has truly done everything in her power to earn it. Good luck, Yenifer!"


Keyla Ramirez, YES Prep Southwest

Matched at Haverford College in Haverford, Pennsylvania

“I’m so extremely grateful for this scholarship, it made the difference between exploring new possibilities and staying in a familiar environment. I feel so honored to be able to accept this amazing opportunity and spend the next four years in my number one school. The work that was put in was not easy but I’m so excited for what’s to come. As a low-income student, I never thought that I’d see myself in a highly-selective institution but my counselor believed in me and allowed me to see that it was possible. Thank you so much Ms. Teague. I hope that this helps other students believe in themselves and dream big, because making those dreams a reality is possible, especially with supportive people by your side.”

From her college counselor, Molly Teague: "I met Keyla in the beginning of her junior year when she decided she wanted to work towards receiving a national merit scholarship. As we got to know each other, I knew she would be the perfect QuestBridge candidate. Keyla and I spent several months workshopping her essays, gathering information for her application, and ensuring every detail painted a perfect picture of her on paper for colleges who had yet to get to know her. She did a tremendous job capturing her essence and sharing that with QuestBridge while also staying engaged with the colleges she was considering. Haverford has always been near the very top of her list, so this worked out perfectly. I cannot think of a young woman more deserving of this honor!"

Jose Angel Machin Kairuz, YES Prep West

Matched at Stanford University in Stanford, California

“I matched with Stanford, thanks to QuestBridge. First and foremost, having received this scholarship means that all the sacrifices my family has made- immigrating to America with the hope of providing me with an education- were not in vain. Furthermore, this award has ensured me that, despite all the challenges I have faced, I am deserving of pursuing my passions and career at one of the world’s best universities by virtue of my hard work and dedication. I will one day do a million things that no one could have ever imagined from a little boy from Cuba.”

From his college counselor, Linda Garza: “Our collaboration has been the culmination of dreams, goals and plans for the past three years that I have known Jose Angel. It has been my pleasure and joy to be his teacher and college counselor in that time, to mentor this tireless individual as he has finally achieved this much deserved honor. He is a brilliant leader and one of the hardest working students I have been blessed to know. I cannot wait to call him Dr. Machin Kairuz one day!”

Congratulations to our eleven QuestBridge Scholars for attaining this opportunity. Your hard work was not in vain. To our college counselors, thank you for guiding, preparing and encouraging our students to be the best version of themselves. We wish you the best as you prepare for this next chapter. For families interested in learning more about QuestBridge and the National College Match, click here.