DSST’s classrooms and hallways are full of vibrant and diligent students with impressive work ethics and big dreams. This week, we met with five very special DSST seniors, who have the distinguished honor of being named a Questbridge Scholar - Ayanle, Daniel, Yoseph, Diaraye, and Ahmed.
Questbridge is an organization that identifies exemplary students from low-income backgrounds, and helps them not only navigate the often intimidating college landscape, but serves as an “aggregator of excellence” to selective and prestigious schools. All five of DSST’s Questbridge scholars participated in the College Prep program, and three of them matched through the College Match program. The students who matched will receive a full scholarship to their chosen university, and those who are still waiting will receive a substantial scholarship as well.
While talking with each senior, a common theme emerged: much of their support and inspiration came from their school community. Having teachers and advisors who made them feel truly understood, and who they could also trust as friends, made all the difference. Even when tempted to quit, they were urged to persist. Whether it was DSST: Cole’s Kathleen Dyer helping Diaraye increase her math SAT score by 300 points, or Yesta Ealy's unwavering support to help Ahmed navigate a challenging math class, these students surpassed their goals because the people around them believed they could.
DSST: GVR High School boasts three Questbridge Scholars- Ayanle, Daniel, and Yoseph. Already recognized as the #1 school in Colorado for sending low-income students to selective schools in the recent A+ Colorado report, GVR also received some press when Ayanle Nur was featured in Westword last month.
Ayanle is the oldest of six children, with Somali immigrant parents. He puts 100% into everything he does, and loves to play basketball to blow off some steam. Ayanle shares that just like the hero of his favorite series, Harry Potter, he didn’t always fit in. But when he was accepted to Yale on a full scholarship, it felt like his “You’re a wizard, Harry!” moment. Ayanle credits taking challenging classes like Pre-Calculus, Biology, and Chemistry at GVR, as well as a summer internship at Children’s Hospital, for putting him on the pre-med track where he’d potentially pursue a career in pediatric radiology.
Yoseph, who matched at Washington & Lee, is driven by a desire to be a positive role model for his younger sister, who just started at GVR MS this year, and show how she can also achieve her dreams. Partly inspired by the movie Gifted, Yoseph is excited to study math, bringing him one step closer to realizing his dream of working with other mathematicians to crack some of the great unsolved math questions.
Daniel shared how at times it was hard to stay motivated with his school work, especially when his mom joined the military and he had to help out a lot more at home. But, with his own dedication and the help of his GVR community, he’s one step closer to pursuing a career in either aeronautics or government and be an advocate for people from low income backgrounds.
Across town at DSST: Cole, Diaraye is excited to head off to Carleton College in Minnesota next year. Diaraye’s mom, an immigrant from Guinea, was a huge influence in her academic dedication. But, between getting diagnosed with lupus a few years ago, and packing her schedule with many extracurriculars, including 12 hour long debate tournaments, it was often hard to find the energy to get through the day. She, however, found a great balance, and is eager to study either international affairs or international finance, and later take those skills to do development work in Africa.
At Stapleton, the interview with Ahmed was delayed by a group of boisterous younger students who clearly look up to everything he has accomplished. Ahmed, who immigrated to the US from North Sudan when he was 7, runs cross-country, volunteers with a Sudanese Youth organization, and works at a car wash. Fitting in all of these things hasn’t been easy, but Ahmed emphasizes the importance of taking time to practice gratitude and thank the people who have helped along the way. Ahmed can’t wait to focus on the topics that fascinate him next year, like aerospace and mechanical engineering.
Each student shared great advice for younger students. Many of them, especially Ahmed, advised to get involved with activities outside of academics, and Yoseph emphasized how important it is to get out of your comfort zone and try new things. Daniel wisely noted not to be afraid to ask for help, and just like Ayanle, encourages students to explore their interests and opportunities any way they can, particularly through summer programs. Diaraye advised not to doubt yourself just because of a test score, but make sure “your GPA is cute.” Having been through her own health challenges, she highlights how important it is to prioritize yourself, but don’t get too carried away with indulgences in the name of self-care.
It’s hard to not be moved by these students’ achievements and the influential educators that have been with them every step of the way. Their journeys, full of challenges and sacrifices, are a testament to the power of a positive attitude and high expectations.
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