BY Chandrea Miller
“My story will inspire people – we are the new normal of today,” said rising senior high school student and Bovard Scholar Melissa Canales. “We are low income, but high impact.”
The Lancaster student from Quartz Hill High School was chosen to give the closing ceremony speech for this year’s Bovard Scholars program, which helps high-achieving, lower-income students succeed in applying to top-tier universities.
“This year’s scholars are from 28 states with an average 4.3 GPA,” said Anthony Bailey, founding dean of USC Bovard College and Bovard Scholars, its signature program. “To date, of the 383 total students who have graduated from the program, a staggering 96-percent have earned full tuition scholarships–it’s beyond impressive and a reflection of their amazing talent.”
USC’s Bovard Scholars is a year-long program that includes the residential summer intensive experience where students come to campus from around the country for an all-expenses-paid, three-week immersive university engagement. This year, due to COVID-19 health restrictions, the residential portion of the program was held virtually.
“It was anti-climactic, to say the least,” Canales said.
Then she jumped on her first videoconferencing call with other Bovard Scholars and the disappointment disappeared. “I was suddenly embraced in the love of this Bovard family,” Canales said.
Bovard Scholars receive top-notch admissions and financial aid coaching, along with career guidance. The support continues throughout their senior year of high school at no expense to the students.
“I’m super excited to go into the school year with my coach,” Canales said. “It’s such a great support system and it’s giving me the motivation to keep going.”
From last year’s third Bovard Scholars cohort, data reports that 77% of the students attended top-tier colleges and universities.
“A top objective of the program is for Scholars to see themselves at selective colleges and universities and know they belong,” said Jennifer Colin, executive director of Bovard Scholars and summer programs. “Watching so many go on to top schools and be successful is a testament to our dedicated staff and admissions coaches as well as the full embrace from the USC community.”
Canales has her sights set on Yale University. Including her advanced honor classes, she boosts an impressive weighted 5.16 GPA. Despite her high achievements, the first-generation college student is relying heavily on the Bovard Scholars program to help her navigate the admissions process.
“It’s a little intimidating,” Canales said. “I could not feel more blessed for this group of people willing to help lift me off my feet.”
Since Bovard Scholars began in 2017, it has helped almost 400 enter highly selective colleges and universities, such as Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth and USC—and, yes, even Canales’ dream school of Yale University.
Canales’ twin sisters will attend UC universities in the fall and her family is extremely proud of them, but Canales says her father, who immigrated from Peru in pursuit of the American Dream, gets extra excited when Yale materials come in the mail–“I know, to some extent, family glory rests in my hands.”
Canales ended her Bovard Scholars closing ceremony speech by thanking USC. “Thank you for carrying us through the night of uncertainty,” Canales said. “Now the sun is rising and we are ready for it; an explosion of color with possibilities for the future we will construct.”