BVH student awarded $1,000 Carson Scholarship


Provided by Mia Gonzalez

Junior Mia Gonzalez poses with a letter received from the Carson Scholars Fund. She received news of her win in March 2021 after applying in January.

Lucia Rivera, Editor-in-Chief

Bonita Vista High (BVH) junior Mia Gonzalez received exciting news earlier this month. She received the Carson Scholarship as the BVH nominee, winning $1000 in recognition of her “academic excellence and humanitarian qualities.”

After being nominated by her guidance counselor, Rosa Tovar, Gonzalez first competed against fellow BVH juniors to become the nominee.

“I was really excited because I was not used to this kind of thing going on,” Gonzalez said. “I don’t know who I was competing against, but I was like, ‘Oh! I won!’ I was super excited [and] happy. But I got into the mindset of, ‘Okay, well, I’m representing Bonita. I better not let them down.’ I just wanted to make the school proud.”

Gonzalez’s application materials included an essay responding to the prompt “What is something you wish you learned at a younger age?”, essays about her volunteer work, her transcript, her resume and a letter of recommendation from her former Biology Accelerated teacher and club advisor Joseph Szakovits.

“This is definitely the scholarship where they believe in conciseness, which actually makes it harder. To summarize the student that you’ve known so long, in two hundred words, you really have to choose what’s most important,” Szakovits said.

Guiding Gonzalez through the application process once she was selected as the BVH nominee was counselor Reynila Calderon-Magbuhat. Calderon-Magbuhat also maintained communication with BVH principal Roman Del Rosario, Ed.D., who approved parts of the application.

“It was just a pleasure getting to know her during the pre-interview process and also touching base with herto make sure that she has the support that she needed, because she’s not in my Alpha [breakdown],” Calderon-Magbuhat said.

About two months after submitting her application Gonzalez received news that she was awarded the scholarship, along with hundreds of other nominees nation-wide. Although she researched scholarships for months, this was her first win.

“I was really excited because this is my first scholarship that I had won. I was like, ‘This is money for college. This is amazing. This is great,’” Gonzalez said. “My motto is to expect the worst and hope for the best.”

Calderon-Magbuhat was also hopeful for a positive outcome and recognized that “it’s an honor to even have a student nominated for this.” After the early March decisions release, Calderon-Magbuhat was excited for Gonzalez’s success.

“There’s not a lot of students in San Diego that got this because I was kind of scrolling through the list just to see anyone else [in] South County, and I didn’t see anybody. I was really happy that she was recognized, and in addition she received a scholarship. That’s really going to help her out,” Calderon-Magbuhat said.

Szakovits, who works with Gonzalez in two clubs, the Future Medical Leaders and Junior Optimist club, was not surprised by the good news due to his “extremely high level of confidence” in Gonzalez.

“I certainly was not surprised that she won, […] yet it was really exciting,” Szakovits said. “There’s a lot of benefits students get when they succeed that have been limited this year, and it felt really good to be recognized in that way. I [also] felt really good that I was able to help her out with that.”

As a frequent writer of letters of recommendation for his students, Szakovits had previously assisted a BVH applicant to the Carson Scholars Fund. This school year, however, he witnessed Gonzalez’s perseverance in the face of the pandemic as she founded a new club.

“I think for Mia it would have been really easy for her to lower her expectations for this year. I think that one of the most unfortunate things about this pandemic is that a lot of times when bad things happen, people take it as permission to expect less of themselves. It’s really amazing to me that not only did Mia not do that, but because things were difficult she tried harder,” Szakovits said. “We have a lot of students at this school who are doing that, and that needs to be recognized.”

In fact, Gonzalez is BVH’s third Carson Scholar in a row, as the counselors were first introduced to the scholarship in the 2018-2019 school year. Calderon-Magbuhat expressed her plan to continue nominating students in order to promote student recognition and scholarships.

“I’m happy that we’ve had three winners in a row considering we hadn’t heard about this before, […] but nevertheless, it’s still an honor for our students to be recognized for their efforts,” Calderon-Magbuhat said. “She’s a top-notch student and has done a lot in terms of community service and I was so happy to know that she was a recipient of this award.” 

Besides increasing Gonzalez’s funds for college, winning this scholarship helped her gain confidence in applying to scholarships and programs, as well as in telling her story. She appreciated that she received recognition for an application in which she was genuine and personal.

“It definitely has given me a confidence booster that I shouldn’t dismiss my writing, my experiences or how I choose to tell my story in certain scenarios. Believe it or not—even I have a hard time believing it—it’s like your story is being heard and being appreciated somewhere,” Gonzalez said. “Sometimes it’s good to be hard on yourself, but have a little bit faith that things will turn out the way they’re supposed to.”

Furthermore, after her first scholarship success, with help from Szakovits, Calderon-Magbuhat and other friends and family, Gonzalez encouraged fellow students to apply for scholarships as well. 

“The worst that can happen is that you don’t get the scholarship, but you learn to write your story. You get to write about something personal to you, which can come in handy in the future, and you should be proud of whatever you do,” Gonzalez said. “It doesn’t hurt to take that leap of faith and hope that everything turns out the way it’s supposed to be.”