Coral Gables High graduate Maria Estrada is going to Columbia University this fall to study biology and political science. Funding for her schooling comes from a QuestBridge Scholarship, a $20,000 Coca Cola Scholarship, and a $160,000 Jack Kent Cook Scholarship.
Estrada was the Gables General Scholarship Silver Knight nominee. Her qualifications included her grade point average and more than 6,000 community service hours.
She wants to go into medicine to help people who don’t have access to medical care, possibly working with Doctors Without Borders. She is taking political science to have a greater understanding of global politics.
While in high school, she founded the Youth Department of Mathematical Development and Creativity at Ponce Middle School.
“It’s essentially a math and science tutoring program,” she said.
Estrada also started a chapter of the Spanish National Honor Society.
“We work alongside the Hispanic community to do community service,” she said.
Club members worked with Ronald McDonald House. They went twice a month to make dinner for the families. Then two Saturdays a month, they would go to Ronald McDonald House and do activities with the kids.
“They have to be constantly near Jackson [Memorial Hospital] because of medical problems,” she said.
She also co-founded a youth group based at the Coral Gables Museum. The group worked museum events such as camps and Family Days.
They also partnered with Shake-A-Leg on a project.
Estrada volunteered as a member of the Youth Against Breast Cancer board, coordinating events that raised money and awareness for the Sylvester Cancer Institute. The issue is important to her because her grandmother passed away because of cancer.
Born in Mexico, Estrada’s early childhood was marred by abuse. So she collected 500 packs of socks and underwear to help children at a Mexico City orphanage who also suffered abuse.
“I wanted to be someone who could let them know there is more to you than this,” she saod. “You can separate yourself from what happened in the past and pursue your dreams.”
— Linda Rodriguez Bernfeld