CMC scholars show their spirit, win national QuestBridge prize

Believe it or not, the beloved CMC planner just became a media star, featured in a CMC-student-produced video that won the national QuestBridge Spirit Day Award.

The annual contest challenges students from colleges and universities across the nation—such as USC, Penn, and Northwestern—to show what the QuestBridge scholarship program has meant to them via a photo or video.

“It’s a big deal to win this prize,” said Jennifer Sandoval-Dancs, associate vice president for admission & financial aid. “These students took the initiative, and I think it reflects how inclusive they are. It’s a powerful way to convey what they feel is important about both their CMC and QuestBridge experiences.”

The annual contest challenges students from colleges and universities across the nation—such as USC, Penn, and Northwestern—to show what the QuestBridge scholarship program has meant to them via a photo or video.

“It’s a big deal to win this prize,” said Jennifer Sandoval-Dancs, associate vice president for admission & financial aid. “These students took the initiative, and I think it reflects how inclusive they are. It’s a powerful way to convey what they feel is important about both their CMC and QuestBridge experiences.”

Inspired by the Makeup Brush Challenge that recently went viral on TikTok, Sarai Ortega ’23, co-president of the CMC QuestBridge Scholars Chapter, pitched the concept to her fellow scholars. 

Sobechukwu (Sobe) Uwajeh ’22, who serves with Ortega as co-president of the CMC Chapter, suggested that they feature the CMC planners. “It’s something everyone at CMC uses,” Ortega said. “We quickly came up with the idea to write down an important date we each experienced in 2020. That way, the video could be a timeline of significant experiences we've all had during such a tumultuous year, while still celebrating all we've accomplished to be here.”

Uwajeh further explained, “We encouraged each student to share a moment that was really special to them and connected to essential parts of the CMC experience. For example, Laura Vences ’22 pointed out the beginning of her Washington D.C. semester, while Mayela Norwood ’23 shared her first OCHEM exam during the online semester. We realize that the CMC experience is as unique as our Chapter is and wanted each student to represent that.”

Founded in 1994, QuestBridge is a national nonprofit whose mission is to recruit, develop, and support motivated low-income students “to be successful at America's best colleges.” The organization helps them gain admission and four-year scholarships to 42 of the country’s top-ranked colleges as QuestBridge partners. 

“I never thought I could go to a school like CMC until I came across QuestBridge during my senior year of high school,” Ortega said. “It was a very stressful process to navigate all by myself, but I'm thankful I pushed through.”

Student applicants select up to 12 colleges from the partner list and if they match with one of their selected institutions—and meet the match requirements—they are admitted early. Since 2017, three to 10 students a year have matched with CMC.

“Our QuestBridge Scholars and all students affiliated with QuestBridge are immensely impressive and inspirational,” Sandoval-Dancs said.

Supported by the Dean of Students and the CARE Center, the CMC Chapter has become a second home for first-generation and low-income college students, generating camaraderie that permeates into the overall CMC community.

Twenty-two students from the CMC Chapter took part in the video, many of whom are not QuestBridge Scholars, but “identify with the low-income, high-achieving student community that CMC has established,” Uwajeh said.

For Sandoval-Dancs, the video provided her with the chance to “see what resonates with students, what they see as special about their CMC experience and the pride they feel.”

For Ortega, producing the video was a form of connection between her and her fellow Chapter members. “It's moments like these, where we get to celebrate our accomplishments together, that make me really satisfied with where we've taken this Chapter,” she said. “This is the first year CMC has won the Spirit Award, and considering we did it during a virtual semester, I think that's pretty exciting!” 

–Anne Bergman