Channel Islands senior’s hard work is rewarded in full

Kristian Dadacay
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© Rob Varela/VC Star
Channel Islands High School senior Kristian Dadacay received a Gates Millennium Scholarship, which will pay for his college education through graduate school. © Rob Varela/VC Star

Kristian Dadacay rushed home from volleyball practice to check if the package had arrived.

But when he opened the mailbox, it was empty again.

Dadacay’s anxiety level began to elevate because he knew the package should have been delivered already.

The value of its contents was immeasurable.

It had the potential to lift a huge burden off his parents’ shoulders, reassure teachers of their career choice and provide a point of pride to an often-overlooked school.

Dadacay asked his parents if they had seen the package, but they shook their heads.

Then his mother remembered a package had arrived during the afternoon when Dadacay’s father was asleep.

His father wasn’t going to answer the door, but the persistent ringing made him change his mind.

Instead of the letter carrier, a stranger stood on the porch. The individual handed over the package, explaining it had been delivered to the wrong address.

Dadacay, 18, raced to find it, ripped it open and found a letter inside.

A smile spread across his face as the Channel Islands High School senior learned he had been awarded a prestigious Gates Millennium Scholarship.

It will pay Dadacay’s full college tuition through graduate school.

“I still can’t believe I got it,” Dadacay said. “It’s amazing. I remember talking to my friends about applying, and one of them told me she didn’t think I would get it. That only drove me to work even harder.”

The Gates Millennium Scholarship Program was established in 1999 to assist outstanding minority students with significant financial needs.

The program was initially funded by a $1 billion grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Each year, 1,000 students receive the scholarships to use at any college or university of their choice.

Students are selected based on academic achievement, community service and leadership potential.

Dadacay, a Filipino-American, will attend UC Berkeley, where he plans to major in molecular and cellular biology with hopes of becoming a physician.

“I am thrilled for him, and I couldn’t think of another student who deserved it more,” said Terrie Romines, Dadacay’s California Scholarship Federation adviser at Channel Islands. “I am sure every penny he gets for that scholarship is a wise investment in the future because Kristian will achieve great things.”

Dadacay knew a scholarship was the only way he could likely attend a university.

His parents, who have raised four children in Oxnard, were both laid off from their jobs during the economic downturn.

His father, Alfredo, worked at a semiconductor company and held two janitorial jobs at night to make ends meet. His mother, Amparo, was an assembler and now works part time in food services at Channel Islands High.

Dadacay’s older brother and sister attended college at state schools with the help of financial aid. His twin brother, Kenneth, plans to do the same.

“I knew it would be really hard for my parents to fund college for two children at the same time,” said Dadacay, who has a 4.71 GPA and is this year’s valedictorian at Channel Islands. “I kept that in mind and knew I had to put all my effort into trying to get this scholarship.”

Dadacay went right down to the wire with his application in November.

He agonized over his essays and proofread them numerous times to make sure each word was perfect.

The application was due at 9 p.m., and Dadacay pressed the “send” button with 15 minutes to spare.

“I didn’t know if it would ruin my chances, being one of the last ones,” he said. “But I thought to myself it was better I submitted it rather than submitting nothing.”

Romines had Dadacay as a student in her geometry class when he was a freshman, and immediately noticed his insatiable appetite to learn.

“He takes school very seriously, and always wanted to know why everything worked the way it did,” Romines said. “He is very soft-spoken, but he would always ask good questions and help the other kids in class.”

Dadacay said the hardships his parents endured to provide a better life for his family serve as his inspiration in the classroom.

“I realized in junior high I had to take education seriously to lessen the burden on my family,” he said. “It was pretty hard getting to know my parents growing up because they had to work almost every day and night. I really empathized with them, and my childhood experience really pushed me to become who I am today.”Along with his Gates Millennium Scholarship, Dadacay was recently named a CSF Seymour Award winner. He is one of only 50 students in the country to earn the honor, and his name will be added to a banner in the Channel Islands gym.

The rewards have filled Dadacay with unlimited optimism as he prepares to leave Oxnard and embark on his college journey.

“The odds were so small for me getting the Gates scholarship, but I worked hard and it happened,” Dadacay said. “It has made me think anything is possible.”

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