Two LCPS seniors in the running for top scholarships
Adriana Gaona and Yosi Esquivel don’t know each other, but in their final year in high school they find themselves walking remarkably similar paths.
Both top students, their days are crowded with studies, school activities, volunteer work and after-school jobs. While in high school – Adriana at North Lenoir and Yosi at South Lenoir – they have each earned a boatload of college credits through Lenoir Community College. They both have a passion for math and science and envision careers in engineering – aerospace for Yosi and biomedical for Adriana.
And both young women have multiple opportunities to win full merit-based scholarships to top universities, scholarship valued at $80,000 to more than $200,000 over four years.
Both students are semi-finalists for the prestigious Park Scholarship to N.C. State University.
Adriana is also a semi-finalist for the coveted Morehead-Cain Scholarship to the University of North Carolina.
Yosi is already a finalist for the Levine, UNC-Charlotte’s premiere scholarship.
Adriana is a finalist for a Secular Society Scholarship at Hollins University, a private women’s college in Roanoke, Virginia.
Their pursuit is about to begin in earnest. Adriana’s first Morehead-Cain interview is today in Greenville. The Park interviews for semi-finalists are Saturday in Wilmington. Interviews for the other scholarships are scheduled for February.
The scholars are anxious to get started.
“I feel like having them back-to-back makes me more comfortable,” Adriana, 18, of La Grange, said of her two interviews in two days. “My mindset is to just be myself and to answer everything as best I can.”
Yosi, 17, of Pink Hill, plans to do the same. “I just want them to get to know me. I don’t want to act any different than I would in a normal setting,” she said.
To get to this point, the young women’s academic records and scholarship applications – including essays and letters of recommendation – have separated them from thousands of other students hoping to land the same valuable scholarships. More than 3,300 students applied for the Levine Scholarship this year; 20 will receive scholarships. The Park and Morehead-Cain each draw more than 2,000 applications from around the country, name about a hundred finalists and award scholarships to about half of those.
In recent years, LCPS students have done well in this highly competitive environment – a Park and two Morehead-Cain winners since 2016, along with winners of top scholarships to Duke University, East Carolina and Campbell, among others. North Lenoir’s last Morehead-Cain winner, from the Class of 2017, was a young man by the name of Angel Gaona, Adriana’s brother.
“He talks about it a lot, about how much fun he has (at UNC) and all the friends he’s made, all the opportunities the Morehead-Cain has provided him,” she said of her brother. “When he came down over the break, we talked about the interview a little bit. He told me about how he answered the questions and the way they asked him questions. I feel like talking about it with him brought my nerves down.”
Handling pressure has to be part of their daily routine, considering the pace the young women keep.
In addition to being a student – including the college classes that will enable her to graduate with an associate of science degree from LCC – Adriana works a full-time job as a sales associate with a wireless company, volunteers at the CSS Neuse Civil War Interpretive Center in Kinston, volunteers as a private tutor in science and math, plays soccer at North Lenoir, serves as president of the school’s HOSA club for students interested in healthcare careers and is a member of the National Honor Society.
“I like to challenge myself,” she said. “Sometimes my parents tell me I challenge myself too much and don’t leave time for myself. I’m just the kind of person who likes to say yes when asked to do something, like with my volunteer work.”
At South Lenoir, Yosi is in her third year as a math tutor in the PALS (Peer Assisted Learning Strategies) program, is a leader of the school’s Quiz Bowl and Science Olympiad teams, is a member of the National Honor Society and the TSA (Technical Student Association) club and works part-time at a fast-food restaurant.
“I’m not the best at planning out a week ahead, but I do try to plan out a day or two ahead,” she said. “I definitely feel like if I just went out there, I wouldn’t be able to do everything.”