SACRAMENTO -- Gabrielle Calderón has dreamed of trying out for the Cal Band in the fall, although she also aspired to get into an Ivy League school.
This fall, the Golden Valley High School graduate will enter UC Berkeley.
"In the end, it worked out better for me to stay in California and attend Cal," said Calderón, 17.
Calderón, who is half Mexican and half Portuguese, was facing a financial problem.
"I took into account my parents' finances when I was applying to colleges," said the Merced resident. "I definitely looked at schools that were going to provide me with a good financial aid package, and I had already made up my mind that I didn't want to take out any loans."
Last Thursday at the state Capitol, she was among 180 high school seniors from 32 counties who shared $200,000 through the Comcast Leaders and Achievers Scholarship Program. The winners received a $1,000 scholarship, and 25 of them won Netbook computers.
Two seniors got a $10,000 scholarship. Calderón was one of them.
"I had no idea. I was completely caught off guard," said Calderón. "Especially because the announcer had said the recipient had been a student that was admitted to Yale University so I knew for sure it wasn't me. Then, they called out my name and I couldn't believe it."
The scholarship, she said, came at a much-needed time.
"There was this huge gap in my financial aid, so I wasn't sure how I was going to be able to afford college, but this money will close that gap," said Calderón.
She graduated from Golden Valley with a 4.14 GPA and was a salutatorian.
Calderón's interest in music began in the fourth grade when she learned to play the flute and baritone saxophone.
Calderón is looking forward to one thing this fall.
"I have already visited the UC Berkeley campus and I already know which clubs I want to join. For sure though, I am the most excited about trying out for the band. I just can't wait," said Calderón.
Laura Moya, the first recipient of a $10,000 Comcast scholarship five years ago, talked about how the scholarship changed her life during Thursday's ceremony.
"This scholarship changed my plans for getting an education. I was able to attend my dream school and became the second person in both of my extended families to receive a college degree," said Moya. "I can honestly say, I couldn't have done it without the help of this scholarship.
"My dad is a furniture delivery man and my mom is a housewife. Finances are tight and missing a day of work means a lot, but nonetheless, they were there to see me," said Moya.
The scholarships will be able to help students during a time of great need, said Curt Henninger, regional senior vice president of Comcast California.
"Times are tough and college tuition is in an upwards spiral. A lot more needs to be done by companies, legislators, the community and parents to continue helping students achieve their dreams and pursue higher education. I do believe Comcast is doing the right thing in helping students achieve their dreams," said Henninger.
All of the students and their families received a tour of the State Capitol and complimentary admission to a Sacramento River Casts baseball game.
Send e-mail to: