Unlike most college scholarship recipients, the more than 1,200 students who have been awarded $16 million in Broad Prize scholarships since 2002 didn’t have the highest grade point average in high school. Instead, much like their school districts, Broad Prize scholars demonstrated improved academic achievement against all odds. These students have overcome family struggles, financial challenges and other hardships to achieve their dreams of going to college.
Broad Prize scholars receive $20,000 to attend a four-year college or university or $5,000 to attend a two-year college. About 91 percent attend four-year institutions, and they graduate from college at a rate nearly double the national average for low-income students.
Talmo Pereira, a graduate of Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland, a 2010 Broad Prize finalist district, grew up in Brazil with a single mother who left her young son with his grandmother so she could work in the United States. She eventually saved enough money to reunite the family and give Talmo a shot at an American education. Talmo struggled in high school, but eventually found his passion in science. After graduating from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County with a degree in bioinformatics and computational biology, and interning at the Broad Institute, Talmo is pursuing his Ph.D. in neuroscience at Princeton University.
Elieth Martinez shares Talmo’s passion for science. A graduate of the Long Beach Unified School District, the 2003 winner of The Broad Prize, Elieth graduated from UC San Diego—the first in her family to attend college—before pursuing medical school at UC San Francisco. From emigrating with her family from Nicaragua to growing up in Inglewood, California, Elieth watched her family struggle. When their visas expired, they were undocumented and unable to find affordable medical care. With those memories burned into her mind, Elieth vowed to become a doctor serving low-income communities. Elieth is now a medical resident at Duke University School of Medicine.
“One of the main reasons I succeeded academically was UCLA’s pre-med enrichment program. It’s geared toward helping low-income, underserved students at UC and Cal State campuses who want to go to medical or dental school. I found mentors who had the same story and background that I did, the same challenges, and they were practicing physicians. They taught me how to study, how to build academic skills, and encouraged me and believed in me. It was challenging going to UCSD and being the first in my family to go to college and not having resources. I plan to be a mentor when I’m a practicing physician. I want to keep helping low-income students reach their potential, just like others helped me.”
“When I was 7 years old, my mom decided to move to the United States in search of work to provide a better life for me. She was eventually able to bring me to join her, but only after eight years of separation. My mom sometimes saved enough money to bring me to the U.S. to come visit. During these visits I’d watch Pokemon cartoons. That helped me pick up English, because I already knew all the lines in Portuguese. Eventually when I moved to the U.S., I retained enough English to start high school as a sophomore. Even though I received pretty decent grades in Brazil, they transferred over as Cs and Ds, if they transferred at all. I had to find ways to be able to prove myself and show I was capable of taking rigorous courses. Early on my mom realized education was going to be the key to unlocking all the opportunities I would need to be successful in life. I live by that message. I truly believe that through education everything is possible. It is astounding what a few opportunities can enable in someone’s life.”