“There are not enough words,” Gabriela’s college counselor wrote, “to explain what an extraordinary young lady Gabriela is.” With a GPA of 99.38 in a combination of honors and AP classes, she also, one teacher said, “shines as a leader.” She was president of her school’s Red Cross club and co-founder of its guitar club, was an altar server at her church, and was selected for a prestigious Bloomberg Arts internship at a Brooklyn museum. In one research project she investigated emergency preparedness in schools, and then set up a website to connect families with emergency services.

She writes movingly about her involvement with Sunrise Day Camp, the world's first full summer day camp for children with cancer and their siblings. Gabriela expressed gratitude to counselors who provided comfort and excitement for over 11 years. Later she returned and trained to be a counselor in the camp herself. “The act of keeping a smile on my face while trying to comfort campers whose lives also suffered from the pain and loss of cancer was almost as if I was repeating my childhood years of agony again,” she wrote. “Yet having been in the shoes of these campers in the past allowed me to swallow the burden that others were facing.”

When she was in elementary and middle school, Gabriela completed her assignments on her mother’s cell phone screen. This led her in high school to research how lack of computer access and other factors “in low-income communities contribute to Hispanic students' academic capacity to thrive.” Her research has a goal: implementing change.“Learning how to embrace and represent a diverse community of low-income, first-generation students,” she wrote, “is my ultimate passion.”

The teacher/mentor that has made the greatest difference in my life is Ms. Kaplan, my first grade teacher. Ms. Kaplan made first grade the most memorable school year I had in elementary school. She saw the potential I had as a student from a young age. During my most difficult times as a child, Ms. Kaplan made sure everything was alright.