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May 31, 2023

GECA student named semifinalist for national scholarship

Marisol Cruz Velasco is one of 411 across the country

Marisol Cruz Velasco, a self-described “people person,” enjoys helping others work through whatever struggles they may be facing.

The Dr. TJ Owens Gilroy Early College Academy senior shares her expertise in linguistics in a variety of ways. Fluent in Spanish, English and Japanese, and currently studying Korean, Cruz is the Spanish translator for her school’s Parent Teacher Student Association’s meetings, and also provides information on scholarships for monolingual Spanish parents.

It’s personal for Cruz, whose parents only speak Spanish and struggle to be involved in her educational endeavors because of the language barrier.

“I want to serve my community,” she said. “I’ve been through some struggles in my life, and I want to help students who are also going through struggles.”

In an interview, Cruz outlined her college plans, which may get a major boost thanks to the news she recently received.

Cruz is one of 411 high school seniors nationwide to be announced as semifinalists for the Cooke College Scholarship.

Offered by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, the scholarship, which saw more than 5,300 applicants, provides students with financial need up to $55,000 annually for four years of college.

“That was some of the greatest news that I heard,” Cruz said. “I just couldn’t believe it. I was screaming. I was really, really excited and grateful.”

The semifinalists will now be narrowed down to 60 who will receive the scholarships. The finalists are expected to be announced in April.

As a GECA student, Cruz, who carries a 4.71 weighted GPA, is also attending Gavilan College, pursuing associate degrees in business and multiple subjects.

She has a list of colleges she’s interested in attending after graduating in June, including UC Berkeley, Claremont McKenna College, University of San Diego and others, adding that she’s waiting to hear back from all before she makes her decision.

She also hopes to study abroad to expand her international perspective.

“I’m really excited about what’s to come,” she said. “I’m really excited about meeting new people and having new experiences.”

Cruz said starting a small business has always been on her mind since a young age, inspired by her grandmother, who was self-employed in Mexico selling various goods such as tortillas and tobacco to American companies.

“That has inspired me to be someone who can bring everyone together and bring services to my community,” she said.

Her ideas include creating a clothing company for those in need, as well as a karaoke business that allows families and friends to spend quality time together.

She’s currently working on a business plan for the karaoke company for her senior project at GECA.

She is also a scholar in the virtual National Security Language Initiative for Youth program, learning about Korean culture, in addition to attending a Morgan Stanley financial program and writing letters for children in hospitals, among her many other activities.

Cruz was also named a national semifinalist for the Elks Most Valuable Student Scholarships, earning her a $4,000 scholarship, with the opportunity to receive a $20,000 award.

Cruz gave a shout-out to GECA Principal Sonia Flores and history teacher Mark Cerny, who wrote letters of recommendations for her Cooke College Scholarship application.

“That really meant a lot to me,” she said. “I’m really grateful. That definitely made a big impact in my application.”

Erik Chalhoub
Erik Chalhoub joined Weeklys as an editor in 2019. Prior to his current position, Chalhoub worked at The Pajaronian in Watsonville for seven years, serving as managing editor from 2014-2019.

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