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SELMA – Selma High student Kimberly Lopez Paulino is like many seniors making plans for college. She’s filling out applications, applying for scholarships and even thinking of a getting a summer job to help pay for her schooling.

“I was thinking I didn’t have anything to go to college with, so I was applying for everything. I was also applying for a job,” she said of her ideas of applying for grants, scholarships and getting a summer job at a packinghouse with her mom.

Although Paulino’s eligible for Pell and Cal grants, she knew she needed more funds for college expenses.

When AVID teacher Jennifer Manter received an email in early April announcing Paulino had been awarded a $20,000 Dell Scholarship, it was  just the news she hoped to hear.

This is the third of Manter’s students to earn this award. In order to be eligible, students have to be enrolled in a college preparation program, have plans to enroll full time to pursue a bachelor’s degree, have at least a 2.4 grade point average and demonstrate grit, potential and ambition.

Manter said Paulino is more than qualified and she’s ecstatic for her student.

“I believe they chose her because she’s invested in her education. She’s been an active participant in Upward Bound and AVID. She does everything in her power to find ways to better prepare herself for the next step of her education,” she said.

The Dell Scholarship is a nationwide scholarship and 400 Dell Scholars are chosen each year. Paulino’s been accepted to the University of California, Merced, and California State Universities at Fresno and Chico. She decided on Chico and will major in computer science. Her ultimate goal is to return to the Valley and teach, not only what she learns about computer coding, but also about college and life to the next generation of students.

“I’d like to really learn about coding and how computers work. Then hopefully I’ll work for a big company like Google or Amazon. Later on, I’d like to come back and teach.”

Since Paulino will be the first of the three children in her family to venture off to college, the whole experience is new, and a little overwhelming, for her family.

“I went home and told my parents. They’re excited for me to get the scholarship, but they’re kind of hesitant about me going away. It’s about five hours from here,” she said of her future school.

Although Paulino said she’s eager for this next step, she realizes how much the AVID and Upward Bound programs have helped her prepare.

“AVID’s been really helpful to know more about the college systems. My teachers helped me apply to the different schools and prepared me to take notes, have responsibility and be on top of deadlines. It’s the same with Upward Bound. It opened my eyes to different options.”

As eager as she is for her college experience, Paulino said she’ll miss her hometown and classmates.

“I feel like the whole AVID class is like a family. We’re all really close and [our teacher] knows how to motivate to us. She’ll say ‘this is for you and you should do this.’ Even when we have bad days, she’s always trying to see the bright side to everything. When we have questions about ourselves, she’s really helpful in figuring things out together.”

Until Paulino heads off to college this fall, she’ll continue mentoring elementary-age children at the Cueva de Oso apartments. She’s already imitating her own teachers’ enthusiasm and using her own life experience to encourage the children, she said.

“I’m similar to them in certain ways. Some of them are the oldest in their family and come from a similar background. When they say they don’t want to do [their homework], I say it is a bit hard, but they know how to do it. In the end, it’ll all be worth it.”

It’s the same advice Manter said Paulino already practices in her own life.

“She’s a well-rounded, mature young lady with big dreams, but also a lot of actions to help her get there. She’s taken college courses through Upward Bound and is involved in the community in helping others find success.”

Manter thinks it would be great if Paulino returned to Selma someday, but she realizes she’ll be a positive influence wherever she goes.

“She gets it. It’s all about paying it forward and giving back to the community that supported you in your dreams. She knows what it’s like to give, but she’s also been on the other side receiving help from others.”

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The reporter can be reached at 583-2427 or lbrown@selmaenterprise.com.

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