College comes calling for Seton Catholic senior

Dedicated study has earned her four years at University of Notre Dame

By Susan Parrish, Columbian education reporter

Published:

 

QuestBridge National College Match program

• Full four-year scholarships with no loans.

• 35 top-ranked partner colleges.

• Focus on high-achieving low-income students.

• On the Web: questbridge.org

University of Notre Dame

South Bend, Ind.

• Annual tuition, fees, and room and board: $57,000.

Seton Catholic College Preparatory High School

811 N.E. 112th Ave., #200, Vancouver.

• Annual tuition and fees: $11,072.

• On the Web: setonhigh.org

On a mission trip to a Cabo San Lucas slum, Julianna Vidales was handing out food, clothes and toys to dirty, barefoot kids when she met a little girl who shared her name.

"I saw myself in her. That could be me," Julianna, 17, said. "I gave her the same kind of bracelet I wear," she said, twisting the Saints bracelet on her wrist.

The senior at Seton Catholic College Preparatory High School has been on the receiving end of the kindness of others, herself. Julianna recently learned she's been offered a four-year, full-ride scholarship to the University of Notre Dame, the prestigious private Catholic college in South Bend, Ind. She is among only 19 students nationwide selected by Notre Dame through QuestBridge, a college match program geared for high-achieving, low-income students.

The program pays for everything: tuition, room and board, books and personal travel. It's a guaranteed four-year, full-ride scholarship, worth about $57,000 annually.

Although many of her classmates have visited the University of Notre Dame, Julianna will first set foot on campus in August when she begins her classes.

Notre Dame was first on her list, but she said she didn't expect to attend there.

"It's the dream school, the elite school," Julianna said. "You don't get your hopes up too much. We weren't planning on Notre Dame until I heard about QuestBridge."

Julianna is the oldest of seven children.

Her dad, Eugenio Vidales, works at Frito-Lay. Her mom, Rebecca Vidales, is a stay-at-home mom. Both parents attended Clark College and expect their children to earn a college degree, she said.

Julianna's weighted grade point average of 4.5 reflects the eight Advanced Placement classes she's taken at Seton Catholic.

Like many Seton students, Julianna and her sister Cristina, a freshman, attend Seton with financial assistance.

The road to Notre Dame hasn't been easy. For her first two years of high school, her family didn't have the Internet at home, so she had to do her research for homework at the public library or at a friend's house.

Unlike 78 percent of American teens, Julianna does not own a cellphone. Neither do her parents.

When Julianna learned about Notre Dame, "The news spread really fast," Julianna said. "Some of my friends started crying."

More than 2,000 high-achieving, low-income students received more than $100 million in financial aid to partner colleges through QuestBridge's National College Match program in 2012.

Based on her PSAT score, Julianna also was selected for the National Hispanic Recognition Program as an academically outstanding Hispanic/Latino high school student by the College Board.

"Julianna is Seton's first student to attend Notre Dame and our first QuestBridge recipient," said Maureen McDaid-Frazier, school counselor at Seton, a private Catholic high school that opened in 2009. "She's one of the hardest working students I've ever met. Julianna made that decision to work hard very early on," McDaid-Frazier said. "She takes care of business. She knows education is the key to success."

Julianna nods.

"Just because you're low-income doesn't mean you can't go to college," Julianna said. "Keep your hopes up. Talk to people. There's a lot of different scholarships out there."

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