Princeton-Bound Alcala-Ascencion Pursues Her Dream with Questbridge Scholarship

Eagle Spotlight


Beatriz Alcala-Ascension will be attending Princeton University next fall.

Camryn Keller, Staff Writer

Beatriz Alcala-Ascencion is about to do what many seniors hoped for: she is going to college debt-free. Having won the Questbridge scholarship, a prestigious national scholarship that entitles her to a full ride, money to cover room and board, any travel necessary, and books needed, she will be attending Princeton University in the fall. She will be able to attend and graduate from an Ivy League university with zero student loans, the college student’s dream.

“Not that I didn’t believe that I got the scholarship, but only recently is it actually set in,” Alcala-Ascencion said. “I’ve begun accepting and thinking like wow, that is ridiculous.”  

Questbridge is a national program whose mission statement is to “designs and builds programs for talented low-income students to access and navigate exceptional educational and life opportunities. QuestBridge recruits, develops, and supports motivated low-income students – beginning in high school through college to their early career – to be successful at America’s best colleges, graduate schools, and companies.” 

The scholarship was only awarded to about 1,500 students nationwide this year. Alcala-Ascencion’s hard work, impressive grades, and dedication lead her to winning this scholarship. Applicants must start their application to the program at the end of September, so Alcala-Ascencion had to spend a good chunk of her summer working on it.

“It is super time-consuming so you couldn’t really go out as much because you had to focus on the essays and other things like that,” she said. “You definitely need to set time aside for it. It is a big-time commitment.”

When most seniors were finishing up their applications, Alcala-Ascencion already knew she had been accepted to Princeton through Questbridge. Going through every college’s application and completing the extra essays/paperwork required for the Questbridge scholarship consumed most of her time towards the beginning of the year. 

“I remember, it was like Halloween. Someone was like ‘Aw, we should go out’ and I was like ‘I have to finish these supplementals.’ So I was stuck at home writing these things,” she said. All that work paid off when she found out at the beginning of December that she was a finalist and matched with her number one school. 

Applying for the Questbridge scholarship is exhausting because of how much time and effort goes into it, but Alcala-Ascencion said that was no reason not to try. “Going in, I kinda went in with the mentality ‘I don’t want to regret anything,’” she said. “I didn’t want to regret it, so I was like, you know what, let me just give it a chance and see what happens.” That leap of faith paid off in the end.

Alcala-Ascencion believes that Norristown High really helped her grow and develop as a person. She has been an active member of UNIDAD and Young Scholars for several years. She cites Mrs. Jill Myers, the advisor of Young Scholars, as a very influential person in her life.

“Ms. Mcguire [Mrs. Myers] has given us so many different opportunities and I think without those opportunities I wouldn’t be where I am today, and I know that sounds super cliche, but, really. I am extremely grateful for her and UNIDAD and Diversity days and things like that.”

 The Norristown experience is something unique and something to be proud of, Alcala-Ascencion believes. Nowhere is the same partly because of the amazing people we have here. “[French teacher Jen] Shahin has a way of adding a cultural aspect to certain … issues in our current society or school district,” Alcala-Ascencion added. “[Norristown teachers’] ways of teaching or the opportunities they have given me have shaped my views.”

The opportunities that Norristown offers allowed Alcala-Ascencion to become the confident, kind, and intelligent person she is today.

“I am grateful for Ms. Maguire kinda pushing us out of our comfort zones. Which again, kinda taught us ‘You can do it’ and ‘If someone else can do it, why can’t you?’ mentality,” Alcala-Ascencion said. “I definitely do appreciate them both, Ms. Maguire and Mrs. Shahin, for everything.” All of her experiences speak to the idea that giving students the opportunity to grow and explore will allow them to grow into their best selves. 

Along with the wonderful teachers that she has worked with at Norristown, Alcala Ascencion’s family has played a big part in inspiring her to get to where she is now. “I think my parents definitely were a big part of that just because they have always taught us you do things for yourself. No one else is going to– not necessarily push you but if you don’t do the work yourself, you can’t get ahead.” 

Her parents’ story also encouraged Alcala-Ascencion to excel the way she has. “They sacrificed a ton of things to immigrate here. I feel like it would be a waste if, you know, I didn’t necessarily focus on something like academics. I definitely do try for that reason and also because it definitely is that American Dream. Like you immigrate and now your children are doing well in school.” She has certainly lived up to that ideal if this scholarship has proved anything. 

I asked Alcala-Ascencion she had any advice for rising seniors or other underclassmen. She said, “Well, definitely a piece of advice that I know that I heard and didn’t follow, definitely something I would follow if I could go back, is to start thinking about college sooner.” After that, she also gave another tidbit of advice that doesn’t only apply to college but life as a whole. “You never know unless you try. Just give it a shot.”