Billings student receives full-ride scholarship to Duke Universi - KTVQ.com | Q2 | Continuous News Coverage | Billings, MT

Billings student receives full-ride scholarship to Duke University

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Mascarena was selected for a full-ride scholarship to Duke (Mascarena) Mascarena was selected for a full-ride scholarship to Duke (Mascarena)

Days before her 18th birthday, Billings Central Catholic student Sophia Mascarena received a very special message.

"I opened it and first saw the words congratulations and I skipped to the words Duke University,” said Mascarena. “And I just started crying."

It's not only the gift of acceptance. Mascarena will study medicine at Duke University on a full-ride scholarship.

"A few days later, I'm still not really processing it yet," said Mascarena.

About 15,000 low-income students applied for the scholarship.

Mascarena is one of just 36 applicants nationwide who was selected for an all-expenses paid education at Duke.

"Not only is it a huge financial burden lifted off us as her parents and her as well, but so exciting and a huge reward for all of her hard work," said Lisa Mitchell, Mascarena’s mother.

Mitchell admitted it may have been impossible for her daughter to attend such an expensive school without the Questbridge scholarship award.

The scholarship will cover Mascarena’s tuition, room and board, meals, travel and supplies; it's valued at a about $72,000 per year.

Mascarena said she plans to one day pursue a career in orthopedic surgery.

“I’ve always been fascinated by the human skeletal system,” said Mascarena, who added that she has a passion for biology.

Shane Fairbanks, Mascarena’s history teacher, said he wrote one of the letters of recommendation.

"She is the kind of student every teacher would want to have but rarely encounters,” said Fairbanks. “Frankly she is brilliant, a tenacious worker."

Duke’s admission rate this academic year was just 10 percent, making it one of the most competitive application processes in the country.

Third in her class and with a nearly perfect GPA, Mascarena excels in the classroom and on the fairway.

"I’m just so proud,” said Mascarena’s father, Tim Mascarena. “I call it the college lottery that she just hit."

And the wealth of knowledge she's about to receive at Duke she plans to spend here in Montana.

"This is home” said Mascarena. “I can't think of a better place to work and raise a family."

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