The student news site of Alisal High School

Trojan Tribune

The student news site of Alisal High School

Trojan Tribune

The student news site of Alisal High School

Trojan Tribune

Senior wins $25,000 Girls Inc. Scholarship

Aneliz Ortega will use it to attend Yale
Roxanna+Javier%2C+Sandra+Ruiz%2C+Aneliz+Ortega%2C+Elizabeth+Birkeland%2C+and+Elizabeth+Contreras+minutes+after+having+surprised+Aneliz+with+the+great+news.+
Roxanna Javier, Sandra Ruiz, Aneliz Ortega, Elizabeth Birkeland, and Elizabeth Contreras minutes after having surprised Aneliz with the great news.

When applying to scholarships, most people probably feel their chances are slim to be a recipient. For the 2024 Girls Inc. National Scholarship Program, senior Aneliz Ortega took her shot and was one of the recipients of the $25,000 Suzanne Patmore Gibbs Courage Scholarship. 

The scholarship is part of Girls Inc., a nonprofit organization that advocates for girls to be “strong, smart, and bold” while pursuing their dreams of higher education. The organization offers the ECHO (Education, Careers, Health, and Opportunities) Leadership Program here at Alisal and Salinas High for sophomore and juniors girls. It is a year-long program focusing on varying topics such as college planning, goal setting, sisterhood, career exploration, and many other issues. “The program helped me learn how to be a leader, be more confident, and with public speaking,” Ortega said. 

For the scholarships, 5 interns of the ECHO program are chosen to apply by their employer. The four different types of scholarships are the $5k, $10k, $20k, and $25k. The requirements are to write essays, provide recommendation letters, and their high school transcript. 

Along the process, Elizabeth Birkeland, a volunteer of 10 years of Girls Inc., supported Ortega during this wild ride. “Even on days we didn’t schedule a meeting, I would email her telling her how overwhelmed I felt with the essays and she would help me through email,” Ortega said. “So she was a really big help and good at what she does.” 

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Birkeland not only helped out Aneliz, but she also helped the four other girls who were chosen to apply to the scholarships. She spent four months helping them, focusing on their essays and getting to know them on a personal level when revising their essays. “The best part about volunteering has to be when I got to go to Alisal and tell her, [Aneliz], ‘Congratulations!’ and see her face of surprise and joy,” Birkeland said.  

Ortega didn’t anticipate being a recipient. “I thought that if I got lucky I would get the $5k scholarship, but even then I was preparing myself to hear back from them that I didn’t get the scholarship.”

Things worked out better than she could have hoped when she was called into the office during her 4th period class. “I figured something was weird, but I thought I was in trouble because the principal, counselors, the program coordinator, my main employer, and coworker were there,” Ortega said. “So I was really confused.” Deputy Director of Girls Inc of the Central Coast, Elizabeth Contreras, had made sure the Girls Inc. team from Alisal would surprise her with this accomplishment. My reaction was honestly kinda underwhelming. I was just like ‘Omg!! Thank you’ I didn’t really have a crazy reaction since I was mostly shocked and didn’t know how to react. I also knew that someone was recording so I didn’t want to do anything embarrassing.” 

Her mom was the first person Ortega called to tell the thrilling news. “My mom started crying and once I saw her after school she was just telling everyone about it, so they found out through her. She was really excited, more than I was.”

Ortega was set on choosing either UCLA, UCSC, Yale, or Amherst College. “I had applied to Yale, not sure if I was gonna get in, but I knew for a fact that if I got accepted to that school, that was the school I was gonna go to.” The final factor was financial aid, since Yale covered almost the entire cost of attendance and the scholarship would help her pay for textbooks, a laptop, and transportation. 

Ortega plans on majoring in cognitive science at Yale University, as she wants to become a psychiatrist. Combining her interest in psychology and mental health disorders. “I figured a career in psychiatry would allow me to explore that and also allow me to actually help people who have mental health disorders or mental health problems in general.”  

She is both excited and nervous about this major change. “I’m excited because it’s gonna force me to be more independent. But what’s bothering me is that I won’t have as much access to all my friends from school since we’re all gonna be so far away from each other” 

Overall, Ortega wants future students who aim for higher goals to never doubt themselves. “If you have doubts that you aren’t sure you’re good enough for it just apply because you never know what might happen.”

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    Melina RuizMay 29, 2024 at 10:56 pm

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