BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — Breiana Campbell was thrilled to find out this spring that she’s been accepted for the Class of 2020 at prestigious Dartmouth College.
But the Bridgeport teen said few words could describe how she felt on April 15, when she found out she had won a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to pay for all four years.
“Euphoria,” she said. “That’s it.”
A conscientious student, Campbell credits a lot of her success to Upward Bound of Sacred Heart University, a program that has offered her the summer courses and programming that made her feel confident in class.
“I think I had a leg up,” said Campbell, who attends Notre Dame High School in Fairfield.
Beginning the summer after her freshman year in high school, Campbell took full advantage of the six-week summer program, which mirrors both the core material and the electives students might encounter in college, said Carylanne Rice-Ehalt, executive director of Sacred Heart’s program.
Students also meet some Saturdays during the school year to discuss issues they might face on campus. Parents and guardians are also kept in the programming loop, Rice-Ehalt said.
Organizers said Campbell stuck out from the crowd as a born leader. She is president of both the National Honor Society and the Spanish Honor Society and is captain of the track team at Notre Dame. She's also vice president of the Spanish Club and volunteers at Stratford EMS, among many other things.
She serves at the Golden Hill Methodist soup kitchen in Bridgeport and was last year’s Barnum Festival queen.
In addition, she interned for a Yale-New Haven Hospital doctor, which sealed her dream to become a physician herself.
“I want to be a neurosurgeon,” she said.
Rice-Ehalt isn’t surprised by her considerable goals.
“She’s been a leader in the program,” she said. “We are going to be reading about this young woman in a medical journal, I guarantee you.”
The Gates Millennium Scholars program aims to break barriers for outstanding minority students with significant financial need. The award covers all unmet need beyond any other aid the student wins.
But the competition is stiff. Campbell’s application was judged against 55,000 others. The foundation provided 1,000 scholarships this year.
With Dartmouth tuition, room and board clocking in at nearly $63,000 a year, the scholarship is significant and a great relief to Campbell’s parents, Rodney and Carlene.
To win the scholarship, Campbell had to write about eight essays and include a letter of recommendation, which she asked Rice-Ehalt to write.
Rice-Ehalt has worked with about 3,000 students in her 27 years with Upward Bound.
“Few have left such an indelible impression,” she said. “Breiana, I’ll never forget.”
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