Oak Mountain High School senior Mar Perez (Gavancho) will be heading to Columbia University thanks to a full scholarship granted by QuestBridge National College Match, a national program that connects high-achieving, low-income high school seniors with full four-year scholarships to the nation’s top colleges.
Out of over 18,500 applicants, QuestBridge selected 6,885 Finalists to be considered for the QuestBridge National College Match Scholarship. This year, QuestBridge’s 42 college partners matched with a record number of 1,464 Finalists, who are recognized as Match Scholarship Recipients.
Match Scholarship Recipients are admitted early to QuestBridge college partners with full four-year scholarships that are provided by the colleges and universities, ensuring for these students and their families that an education at a top college can be affordable.
QuestBridge’s 42 college partners include top liberal arts colleges such as Amherst, Pomona, and Williams and exceptional research universities such as Columbia, Duke, UChicago, Stanford, and Yale. The Match Scholarship is offered as part of a generous financial aid package provided by the college that covers the full cost of attendance, including tuition, room and board, books and supplies, and travel expenses.
These outstanding high school seniors have an average unweighted GPA of 3.93, and 94% are in the top 10% of their graduating class. Perez, who ultimately wants to pursue a career in veterinary medicine, is currently ranked eighth in her class of 413 seniors. She plans to major in pre-med with a minor in International Relations.
For her academic achievement, she has been inducted into the National Honor Society, English Honor Society, and Science Honor Society. COVID-19 affected Oak Mountain’s spring induction ceremonies when she was to be inducted into Mu Alpha Theta Math Honor Society and Rho Kappa History Honor Society.
Perez has taken six Advanced Placement (AP) courses and exams and is currently taking seven AP courses, one of which (AP English Literature) is being taken online due to a master scheduling issue. Following the May 2020 AP exams, Perez received the AP Scholar with Distinction designation.
Since June, Perez had been serving as an unpaid intern for the City of Montevallo, assisting former mayor, Hollie Cost, in developing programs to encourage diversity and community involvement in low-income Hispanic neighborhoods.
“Mar is a first-generation immigrant from Peru,” wrote OMHS guidance counselor Bobby Deavers in her letter of recommendation for the scholarship. “Her parents came to the United States in December 2007, and of course, this has shaped her as a person. As the oldest of three siblings, she has learned leadership and responsibility from a young age due to her parents working long hours every day, even on holidays. Mar currently serves as a tutor to her two younger siblings while her parents work until 6:00 pm each evening.”
Deavers said Perez is a valued member of the OMHS school community. As a member of the Peer Helper group, she serves as a small group mentor of students through welcoming events like Freshmen and New Student (FANS) Camp, IMPACT Day and Big Brothers/Big Sisters. As a leader in the Minority Student Association, Perez helps facilitate events that celebrate the diversity of the student body and helps coordinate a Culture Day Fashion Show which showcases traditional clothes and dances of various cultures.
Perez has also taken the lead in working to establish a student-led, volunteer-based STEM Club at OMHS in order to introduce high school students to volunteering opportunities in the STEM fields while providing enrichment lessons to elementary school students.
Perez has been a member of the OMHS award-winning Math Team since 2017 competing in geometry, algebra II, and comprehensive math. She was also a member of the “Spirit of Cahaba” Marching Band program, playing alto saxophone from her freshman year through her junior year.
Since 2018, Perez has been a member of the Shelby County Beekeeper’s Association. She cares for eight beehives located at Hilltop Montessori School and the Mt. Laurel Farm. She also serves as a volunteer at the Shelby County Humane Society and provides pet-sitting services to diabetic dogs who require insulin injections and special diets.