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GRPS student credits family for inspiring her to win prestigious scholarship

Jaylynne Calderon-Monterroso won the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Scholarship, which awards exceptional students in minority homes.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Tens of thousands of people apply for the Gates Scholarship every year, and the acceptance rate is around only 1%.

This year, Jaylynne Calderon-Monterroso is part of that 1%, thanks in part to a strong work ethic fueled by her family.

"It was really shocking at first," says Jaylynne, a senior at Grand Rapids University Preparatory Academy.

It's a shock for her, but not to people who know her.

"I've seen her blossom from seventh all the way to 12th grade," says Kenyatta Hill-Hall, Jaylynne's principal.

Jaylynne is no stranger to accomplishments. 

She's on the Grand Rapids Mayor's Youth Council, the National Honors Society, the UPrep Senior Board and will soon graduate as her class valedictorian.

Her motivation?

"I come from, like, a really big family," says Jaylynne.

Her parents immigrated to the U.S. from Guatemala, looking for a better life. Their daughter hopes to provide that.

"Being able to use that education to help financially set them up so they don't have to work anymore," says Jaylynne.

She also hopes to inspire the rest of her family, showing them that anything is possible.

"To, like, lift that barrier off of my two younger sisters is something I really care about and hope to do in the future," says Jaylynne.

The scholarship pays for the entire cost of undergraduate school for exceptional students of color.

"All the finances that, like, I thought I'd have to worry about, like, how to get home and like housing, and then meal plans and all that," she says.

Jaylynne intends to use the money to attend Notre Dame in the fall.

"I specifically chose Notre Dame because of their Latino study scholarship program, which was really important for me," she says.

A place Jaylynne's principal says is getting a good student and an even better person.

"This world better watch out for Jalen," says Hill-Hall.


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