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Scholarship diligence pays off for JHS student

Amayrani means “rainbow,” and for Amayrani (Amy) Garcia, the rainbow offers a pot of gold in scholarship opportunities that will fund most of her education through several years of graduate study.

Garcia, however, did not find her rainbow easily; it has been a long, diligent process on her journey for success.

Garcia said her mantra is, “If your dreams don’t scare you, then they’re not big enough.”

Pot of gold: Amayrani Garcia of Jemison High School has accumulated a total of $214,000 in scholarships and grants as she begins her college career. (Contributed photo)

Pot of gold: Amayrani Garcia of Jemison High School has accumulated a total of $214,000 in scholarships and grants as she begins her college career. (Contributed photo)

Scholarship submissions during a student’s senior year of high school are often long, tedious and filled with doubt.

For seniors who meet the criteria for applicants, they must write and edit essay questions, compile the documentation of grades and community service and submit the completed application in December and January.

Then, the waiting begins.

Such was the case for Garcia, a University of Montevallo TRIO Upward Bound student from Jemison High School.

Garcia also enrolled in an AP physics class at LeCroy Career Technical School in Clanton because she wanted to experience the complete STEM experience.

Since June 2015, when she began her scholarship search and journey, she has spent hundreds of hours writing and editing multiple applications—often on paper because she did not have access to a computer—for admission to colleges and completed scholarship applications to ensure she had the funding to attend.

Along the way, Garcia has earned academic scholarships to both the University of Montevallo and UAB but ultimately chose UAB because of her desire to study and participate in medical research.

The only thing holding her back was funding for her dreams.

Over the past month, she began to see more fruits of her labor.

First, she was informed that she was a Linly Heflin semi-finalist. Garcia interviewed in March and was notified that she would receive the Linly Heflin Scholarship ($3,000 for four years and mentoring) to the college of her choice.

Next, she received notification that she was a semifinalist for the Dell Foundation Scholarship ($5,000 for six years), a Smith Foundation Scholarship semi-finalist (up to $15,000 for four years and mentoring) and a Gates Millennium Scholar semi-finalist ($15,000 for up to six years).

In the last two weeks, Garcia has been notified that she is a recipient of the Dell Foundation and the Smith Foundation Scholarships. And, just when it seemed it could not get any better, Garcia went to her mailbox after school to find another award: the Gates Millennium Scholarship, bringing her total for scholarships and grants to $214,000.

Garcia’s efforts—which are part of the reason she earned these scholarships—have taken place over a longer period of time.

As an eighth grader, she applied and was accepted into the University of Montevallo TRIO Upward Bound, a federally funded pre-college readiness program.

Because Garcia’s parents did not speak English, her older sister accompanied her to the interview with her mother.

Garcia spoke clearly and detailed her interest in neuroscience, because of her interest in a television series called “Brain Games.” She enrolled in academically rigorous courses at Jemison High School and then excelled in those classes.

By 10th grade, when TRIO Upward Bound students started preparing for the ACT, Amy was again one of the most aggressive learners; she knew how important the composite score was and worked diligently to improve her standardized test scores so she would qualify for these important scholarships.

She has used TRIO Upward Bound tutors in her more difficult math and science courses and has maintained a 4.3 GPA. Garcia also emerged as a leader, becoming a TRIO Upward Bound Student Ambassador and officer in SGA.

By her senior year, Garcia was selected as SGA President by her peers. She has been an active participant in the TRIO Upward Bound program for the last four years and has participated in the summer residency program at the University of Montevallo—living in Hanson Hall and taking academic courses to improve her skills—for the last three years.

In her “spare time,” Garcia volunteers. She has completed more than 240 hours of community service with TRIO Upward Bound and has taught a Sunday School class at her church for the last several years.

Garcia credits her teachers at Jemison High School, LeCroy Career Technical School and TRIO Upward Bound for her success.

“My time in the University of Montevallo TRIO Upward Bound program has been an incredible experience that I will take with me wherever I go,” Garcia said. “This program has gifted me with many great friendships both from the students and the staff. I truly appreciate the over abundant help that I have received, and I can honestly say that I would not have been able to accomplish all that I set out to achieve had it not been for the constant motivation from everyone.”

Garcia understands that in order to keep these scholarships, she will have to continue to hone her academic skills and transition from a rural school to college.

Garcia plans to attend the University of Montevallo this summer and participate one last time as a TRIO Upward Bound Bridge student. She will register for chemistry, which she will complete with this same level of excellence and then transfer to UAB in the fall, where she plans to continue her journey and study neuroscience.