ATTLEBORO -- Until last fall, Analia Cuevas-Ferreras was a talented, low-income high school senior whose slim hope of getting into a top college was winning a big scholarship.
It seemed like a long-shot, said the 17-year-old daughter of Dominican immigrants who attends Attleboro High School.
"My parents couldn't afford to pay a lot for college, so I figured it would be an Ivy League school that can afford to grant full scholarships or a state school, where I could qualify for an Adams scholarship," said Cuevas-Ferreras, who is active in student government and cofounded the school's debate club.
Then last summer, Cuevas-Ferreras received an email invitation to submit an application to QuestBridge, a little-known scholarship and college-matching service dedicated to getting low-income students into the best schools. After a demanding application process, she emerged clutching a dream - a four-year, fully-paid scholarship to Yale.
The AHS student said she'd never heard of the QuestBridge program until she received the invitation. But, she's glad she acted on it.
After submitting a battery of applications, recommendations and financial forms, she got the happy news in late November.
"QuestBridge has changed my life," Cuevas-Ferreras wrote in an email.
Non-profit QuestBridge describes itself on its website as an organization that helps to connect bright, motivated low-income students with educational and scholarship opportunities.
Its National College Match program allows deserving students to apply to any of 33 partner colleges to be considered for admission and full, four-year scholarships.
Cuevas-Ferreras eventually applied to eight schools under the National College Match umbrella. With all the application requirements posed by the different colleges, churning out all the paperwork and writing multiple essays was hectic.
But she had help, she says, from guidance counselor Julie Little who expedited the process.
"Analia is very organized," Little said. "She even made a chart to show how she was going to get everything done."
One of the side benefits of winning the scholarship was an early decision concerning where she'd go to college next year.
"Some of my friends still don't know where there'll be going," she said.
But while the choice of a college has been decided, Cuevas-Ferreras doesn't have time to sit back. There's still the need to keep her grades up.
She's also busy with her work for the student council and the student advisory committee, tutoring other students and being tutored herself in physics. From time to time, she also helps out with English-as-a-second-language classes at her church, Memorial Baptist in Seekonk.
Principal Bill Runey said Cuevas-Ferreras' success is a tribute to the senior's determination and seemingly limitless work ethic.
"I honestly don't know when she finds time to sleep," he said.
Information and brochures concerning QuestBridge are available at the high school guidance office. The program's website is questbridge.org.
RICK FOSTER covers Attleboro's schools for The Sun Chronicle. He can be reached at 508-236-0360 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.