Nikiski: Tiffany Lopez

“When I clicked that submit button I was relieved to be finished and proud of the writing I submitted. I had conquered a challenge that gives me a chance that could change my life.”

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Tiffany Lopez is a Senior at Nikiski High School and a 2015 Gates Scholarship Winner. Her mentor is Laura Niemczyk.

2015 Reflection on Gates Millennium Scholarship Application Experience

On the day I met with Ms. Laura Niemczyk to discuss scholarships, going to college was becoming questionable due to a lack of funding. I was ready to quit school and let go of my dreams to focus on taking care of my family.

I was tired, confused, and working at the local grocery store to help pay the bills. I was making decisions like an adult, while still being a child.

The GMS offered me an opportunity to afford my dreams. I was being given a chance, and that’s all I needed. With a handful of tissues soaked with happy tears, I agreed to take on the challenge that would ease my questioning mind.

When I first began working on the Gates application, I was expecting far less work than it was. I didn’t predict every second of my free time to be spent with my laptop, or late nights trying to make words in my mind appear on a computer screen in the order and style I wanted it to be.

I was already working 30 hours a week in my position as the grocery store cashier, and a few hours here and there with other less demanding jobs. I also continued my obligations to my family through taking care of my sisters. Even though the Gates application process was very time consuming, I made sure I was not letting down my family.

I was ecstatic when I finished my first drafts of every essay. Little did I know that the real work had not even started. I received my first notes back from Tad and Dean. Their reassuring words didn’t do much while I sat in dread of changing three essays and completely rewriting one. I wanted to quit. The only reason I didn’t was the email that followed the day after.

Tad had received one of my final drafts, and was full of praise. With that little bit of progress I was set to go the long haul, to finish the application no matter what.

Ms. Niemczyk helped me immensely during the time that was nothing but edits after edits. We started a drawer in her desk that was full of discounted candy, since we knew B vitamins were essential to feel better. Over Christmas break, Ms. Niemczyk set aside time at her house for Gates essays, which usually involved dinner of some sort. I believe the best thing that helped me was her reassurance and redirecting of what my overall goal was: to go to college for little or nothing.

Mrs. Niemczyk was a key factor to my success. She is a devoted, loving, teacher who took me in as her own kid during, and after this challenging task. I owe a tremendous thank you to her. Her efforts, brilliant mind, and the connection we now share as a second mother and her “adopted” daughter will be what I will cherish as I continue with my educational career.

When Ms. Niemczyk and I spent the two and a half hours finishing the GMS, at midnight on a school night, uploading the information onto the Gates website, it became clear to me that I actually had a chance to win this scholarship. When I clicked that submit button I was relieved to be finished and proud of the writing I submitted. I had conquered a challenge that gives me a chance that could change my life.

I received great help from Tad, Dean, their anonymous “Educated Reader,” and all of the Language Arts teachers in my small school. If it wasn’t for the support of these individuals I wouldn’t have been able to dream. I don’t know what I would have done. Because of these wonderful people, I finished this amazing opportunity and renewed my desire to chase after my dreams.