Opportunity Knocks for 25 High School Seniors
College Board announces winners of its $40,000 scholarship program
Ten days into her community’s shelter-in-place order, Livermore, California, senior Fiona Smith-Calonico was worried. The coronavirus meant she was completing high school from home, but even worse was how uncertain her future seemed. She had just been rejected from her top-choice college and, “I was freaking out about what I was going to do with my life,” she said.
Then her phone rang. She had won a $40,000 College Board Opportunity Scholarship.
“When I received their phone call, I was completely in shock,” Smith-Calonico said. “It felt really good knowing that the College Board has provided me with some certainty for the future. Now, I feel I can relax more when taking the next steps toward my dream career.”
Smith-Calonico is one of 25 recipients of the College Board’s Complete Your Journey scholarships. The winners were drawn from a pool of hundreds of thousands of students who completed six college-planning steps, from building a college list to practicing for the SAT to completing the FAFSA®.
Four students, with parents by their sides, react to being told they had won a $40,000 College Board Opportunity Scholarship
More than 500,000 students from every state in the nation, as well as Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, have taken part in the program since it launched in December 2018. Nearly 4,000 participants earned smaller scholarships ranging from $500 to $2,000.
As college costs mount and student-debt loads increase, the importance of scholarships has never been greater—especially for first-generation students.
"I am the first child to go off to a four-year institution, and this scholarship means so much to my family and me," says Angelique Hall, a $40,000 winner from Beacon, NY. "Everything I do is for my family. And they’ve seen how hard I’ve worked. The restless nights where I only got 30 minutes of sleep. The car rides I spent reading for class. The many events where I brought homework with me so I could keep up in my classes. The tears I shed when I didn’t do as good as I wanted. The determination I had to keep going even when I wanted to give up. This is not only a win for me but a win for my family because they were there no matter what."
That sentiment was echoed by Nyzaiah Gore, a winner from Newport News, Virginia.
“When I found out I won this [$40,000] scholarship I was relieved,” Gore said. “I was examining the financial aid packages I received from multiple schools, and while many offered me a suitable amount of money, I knew that I would be in college debt. This scholarship ensured that I wouldn't have to burden my parents with the cost of college.”
With his mom, Claudia, by his side, Gore learned he won by getting a call from College Board CEO David Coleman—an emotional moment captured on video and shared with audiences of NBC’s TODAY Show.
“He’s not going to walk [at graduation], he can’t go to prom,” Claudia Gore said. “All those special moments have been taken away [because of the pandemic]. This is a moment to just see his face light up. He’s worked so hard, he deserves it.”
As Smith-Calonico, Hall, Gore, and the other Opportunity Scholarship winners prepare for what comes next, high school juniors can visit the College Board Opportunity Scholarships website to take their first steps toward a chance at next year’s $40,000 awards.
“We want all students to see themselves as scholars, no matter where they began," Coleman said. "College planning does not need to be daunting. These 25 students took one simple step, and then another, until they reached their goals. We encourage the Class of 2021 to follow their lead.”