Making college possible at HPSH

Congratulations to the 195 Highland seniors who have completed their college applications so far this year! Good luck to you all!

Now that a majority of our college applications have been completed and reviewed for admission, it’s time for seniors (and possibly juniors) to start formulating a plan to afford the college of their dreams. One of he most obvious ways to ease the load of our financial aid packet is to apply for outside scholarships. Even though some institutions will already offer students scholarships and grants in their financial aid package, there is still much more of the gap that needs to be covered. Why wouldn’t you want to exchange your writing for free money?

College Possible is among the one of the college prep programs offered for Highland students of disadvantaged backgrounds. While the juniors are diligently practicing for the upcoming ACTs in April, seniors have just been finishing up their FAFSAs and several scholarship applications. Just last month, it was official that everyone in the cohort received admission to at least one college. Among College Possible students, 2 have already received full ride scholarships to their ideal college of interest. It was an honor for me to sit down and listen to their inspiring stories about the process towards achieving the scholarships and their outlooks of their future.

Our very own Highland, and College Possible student, Daniel Degollado, is one of the


46 students named as a 2016 Act Six scholar in the Midwest! The Act Six Scholarship is a program that selects students who displays leadership, academic potential, and community commitment through a three month competition among over 300 students. The full-ride scholarship is annually awarded to students who hope to attend one of the following colleges in the Midwest: Augsburg College, Bethel University, North Central University, University of Northwestern-St.Paul, and Taylor University.

Daniel first found out about Act Six from his senior College Possible coach, Keeley Norton. “I was interested in Augsburg College because first I visited there as a sophomore for the Spanish debate,” said Degollado. “It was very exciting to think that I could go to college for free so I decided to not just give it a try, but my best try.”

The first phase of the scholarship required the submission of four essays, letters of recommendation, a transcript, and financial information. With the help of his College Possible coach, he spent two and a half months diligently working on the application, and eventually found himself qualified to advance onto the next round.

For the second phase of Act Six, Degollado went to Cristo Rey High School to engage in discussions with the other 120 participants. “The only thing they asked of us was to be ourselves,” he said, “and to be honest, it was very easy to be myself.” With his spirited and entertaining personality Degollado finally found himself facing the final round of Act Six. He admitted that this was the most challenging phase in the process. Participants had to compete with each other in games, take part in more discussions about college, and have personal interviews with Augsburg’s staff.


Degollado met LeVar Burton, director of Reading Rainbow, during phase 3 of Act Six.

“It was very tiring and we had to stay motivated and excited all the time. There was a part where they presented to us a video that we were going to discuss, and everybody was taking notes except for me. I felt very bad because of this. I thought I was going to lose points because we were being graded for everything we were doing. What I would do differently is to take notes. Other than that, I think I did pretty good.”

On February 24, after waiting for two weeks, he received his decision packet from Act Six, congratulating him as one of the new 2016 Act Six Scholar! “The first person I told was Keeley. She started screaming! I also called my mom and my brother and they were freaking out. My mom started crying of happiness.”

Click here to experience his life changing (and funny) moment.

Receiving this full ride scholarship had actually changed his initial plans after high school. “I was in a position where by the end of the year, if I wasn’t able to pay for college, I was going to go back to Mexico where college is sort of cheaper. But now, I’m for sure going to college.” The scholarship gave him a chance to pursue higher education in the US, and an amazing opportunity to be more productive in college, receiving recognition for his potential as an excellent student.

Degollado plans to attend Augsburg, his first choice college, to major in International Relations and dig deeper into his Latino heritage. “I want to study International Relations to understand more about my Latino culture in order to make changes and have more voice within our community. I want to be an example for those that think they are not capable of doing great things just because of the fact that they are Latino.”

Amaris Holguin, is another College Possible student who was admitted to the University of St.Thomas. Earlier this year, she had completed her application to the competitive UST Dease Scholarship, offered to underrepresented, first generation students, in urban high schools. More than 200 UST students have been awarded over the course of 10 years, each year with about 12-15 well-qualified students.

Holguin first met with UST undergraduate admission counselor, Teron L. Buford, after attending the REACH Summit Conference (Realizing Equity and Cultivating Hope) held on the UST campus over the past summer. From there, she was able to build a better connection with Teron, and got to know him personally as she continue to meet him at college fairs. Having told her about the Dease scholarship, Holguin immediately took advantage of the opportunity and set herself to complete the application. “I wanted to apply to all of the scholarships I can,” said Holguin,

“and hearing that it was for students I color, I definitely wanted to take that risk.”

Only those who were admitted to UST earlier this year were given the opportunity to submit an online application which required two essay prompts. In 400 words or less, applicants had to tell what receiving this scholarship would mean to the student and their family, as well as another 500 words describing the value of having diversity in a learning community and how they would promote and celebrate different cultures while a student at St. Thomas.

“In my essays, I explained about myself for who I am, where I grew up, and also having parents who grew up in poverty. At the time, there was nothing for me and my brother to feel ashamed of because my parents always tried to protect us from noticing our social barriers.” Holguin mentioned her concerns about how her family’s social class was going to be a major impact towards her financial ability to attend college, and having goods prospects for the future. Being a woman of color, and her decision to maintain both of her cultures was a major theme in her second essay.

During the morning of March 1st, Holguin was called down to the CCRC from Mr. McKinney’s third-hour anatomy class. Although she was simply sent down to talk with Ms. Esso, she couldn’t help but worry about whether she had done something wrong or was getting into trouble. As she walked through the door of the CCRC, she surprisingly found everyone including her College Possible coach (Keeley Norton), Ms. Esso, and Teron waiting for her in the room.

“I came here to bring scholarship opportunities for Keeley,” said Teron, “and this is for you.” He handed her an envelop. As soon as her had it in her hands, she slowly opened, quickly scanned through the first line of the letter and immediately burst into tears. Dear Amaris, On behalf of the Dease Scholarship committee, I am pleased to announce that you have been selected to receive a Dease Scholarship…..

“I just became so oblivious at the moment, and I remember crying the whole day. I cried as I walked along the halls to the principal’s office, and cried again there as Dr. Tucker congratulated me.” She even went to surprise her mom at work who also shed some tears. “Mom worked since she was 11, working for me and my brother to support the family. I was always so worried that she was going to continue struggling for us forever.”

Receiving acknowledgement for her hard work and effort invested towards this scholarship is something she appreciates about receiving the Dease scholarship. “But definitely seeing the look on my parents faces when they heard the news, it’s grateful to know that they no longer have to worry about supporting me and my brother for the rest of their life.”


Keeley Norton, senior College Possible coach

Similarly to Degollado, she would like to acknowledge Keeley for the vast amount of help and support during the application process. Both admit that their success stories wouldn’t have been possible without her presence.

Her advice for juniors and seniors? “Take all of the chances you can get your hands on. Even with the slim chances, you would never know what would happen.

College Possible is still recruiting sophomores for next year, so if you are a sophomore, or know one, please feel free to talk to the College Possible coaches in the CCRC! College Possible has made a life changing difference for these two winners, and I have no doubt in my mind that they will make a huge difference in our community in the future.


  1. Daniel Degollado says:

    This is amazing!

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