By Jessica Tuggle
VERO BEACH - After filling out dozens of scholarship applications, researching colleges and classes and after storing the graduation cap in a box in the closet as a keepsake, then it's finally time to slow down for the summer before leaving home for the next level of academic achievement.
For one Saint Edward's School graduate, summer fun will take place in a classroom far away from home, paid for, in part, by a $100,000 scholarship from Ronald McDonald House Charities.
Emily Salvador, 18, of Vero Beach, was selected as one of four nationwide recipients of the $100,000 Ronald McDonald House Charities Hispanic American Commitment to Educational Resources, or HACER, scholarship. She left last week to begin her college coursework at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
"I'm very excited to leave for the summer program. I tell my mom, 'I'm in love with MIT,' but she says you can't be in love with a school," Miss Salvador said in an interview.
Applicants for the HACER scholarship undergo an interview process and in May, Miss Salvador was presented with her check, much to her surprise.
"I filled out so many scholarship applications. It was routine. I didn't really remember the scholarship. I do remember saying I was never going to get a $100,000," Miss Salvador said.
The excitement in her voice was contagious as she spoke of the specialized programs for aspiring biologists she will take over the next few years at MIT.
The professor teaching her freshman biology class is involved in various DNA and genetics projects she has studied about and is looking forward to learning more about new science studies.
"It will be neat to work with people I've read about in my textbooks," Miss Salvador said.
Originally, Miss Salvador was thinking Yale University would be the best place to study biology, which would lead her to her dream job of working in the new field of personalized medicine.
She started participating in science fairs in elementary school and her interest deepened as she progressed through high school.
Once MIT began wooing her with their programs and high research standards and practices and topped it off with a Valentine's Day card decorated with the elemental breakdown of chocolate, she knew it was the one for her.
Personalized medicine, or genetic medicine, involves studying a person's genetic code to learn what medications will be most helpful in both healing and preventing disease, Miss Salvador said.
Biology is Miss Salvador's academic passion, but her interests also extend to singing and arranging music.
"I love music, everything about it," Miss Salvador said.
Besides singing in choral groups at school and playing the piano, she recently had the opportunity to arrange a cappella music for a local a cappella ensemble.
Leading people could be one of the reasons she won the HACER scholarship, Miss Salvador said.
Miss Salvador organized an entire tutoring club from the ground up at Saint Edward's Upper School for younger students at Saint Edward's Lower School. The club tutored in math, reading and music, and involved 40 out of 200 upper school students.
Other community service projects brought her volunteer hours to more than 500 for her high school career.
"Out of all these people, they picked me. I think (community service) is a big part of why they were interested in me for my scholarship," Miss Salvador said.