It's every parent's dream. A free ride for their kid's college education. All of it.
Three Sunnyside High School students gave their parents an early Christmas present when they were named recipients of the Gates Millennium scholarship.
Blanca Mejia, Marisol Garcia and Christine Kim will have all of their college expenses paid by the scholarship, including any costs associated with a Master's degree or a doctorate.
All three girls say the application was time consuming, but worth it. Of the 23,000 applicants, the Sunnyside three were part of a group of 1,000 that were awarded the scholarship.
"I know how special this is, but I was like in shock," Garcia said of her feelings when she learned she got the scholarship. "It didn't hit me for a while. When I got home I started yelling. I told my dad and he started getting excited."
Garcia said the cost of higher learning would have been a huge burden on her family and herself. But with the Gates Millennium scholarship, those worries are not a reality anymore.
"My parents are really proud of me," she added.
Mejia said she first heard about the scholarship when two girls from Sunnyside were selected for it a few years ago. Last year, Sunnyside's Jose Barajas was awarded the scholarship.
"I knew him," she said. "After that I thought I could do it."
She knew how important the Gates Millennium scholarship was. The eight essays each applicant must complete were challenging for Mejia, but she said she took her time and tried to make her words as vivid as possible.
"I wanted them to remember who I was," she said of the judges.
She looks at the scholarship as a blessing, not so much for herself, but her family. She will be attending college with her older brother and now that her education is paid for, Mejia said her parents can instead focus on her brother.
Surprise hit Kim, as well.
"I called my mom right away," she said. "She started crying. I was very surprised and happy."
Before she got the scholarship Kim was planning on attending an in-state university, but now her options are open.
"It's just a relief, honestly," she said. "My brother is in college and now my parents can continue to support him and not stress about me."
All three students have 4.0 grade point averages.
Garcia is a former Miss Cinco de Mayo princess, a member of the Latino Culture Club and is in Running Start at YVCC in Grandview. She has taken two AP classes in her high school career.
She plans on finishing her AA degree at YVCC and then transferring to a four-year college. Currently she is deciding between Gonzaga and Stanford. Garcia said she wants to study law.
Mejia is also a former member of royalty. She was a princess on the Miss Sunnyside Court. She has been the president and vice president of the Latino Culture Club, a member of Link Crew and has taken seven AP classes while attending Sunnyside High School.
Mejia plans on attending the University of Washington, where she wants to study medicine. She hopes to become an anesthesiologist some day.
Kim is a member of the Sunnyside High School tennis team and has taken nine AP classes in her career at Sunnyside High School. She has been accepted to Pepperdine University and USC, but is waiting to hear from Cornell and Duke before making a decision on where to attend school.
She is still undecided on what major she will choose.
"I've always been interested in bio-chemistry, but lately I've been interested in international relations," she said. "It will be between those two majors."