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It’s a Match: St. Joe senior earns full ride to Notre Dame

December 18, 2018

Ashlley Castillo, a senior at Saint Joseph Academy, has earned admission to the University of Notre Dame on a full-ride scholarship through the Quest Bridge college attainment non-profit organization.

She joins a group of 5,200 Quest Bridge scholars nationwide who were "matched" to one of the California non-profit’s college partners. Quest Bridge is a platform that strives to connect the nation’s brightest students from low-income backgrounds with leading higher education institutions.

Castillo is the youngest child in a single-parent family who credits her mother with steadily encouraging her to pursue a top tier college education. Notre Dame is widely regarded as one of the premier Catholic universities in the country.

She is also a graduate of Guadalupe Regional Middle School, the scholarship-only school in Brownsville where she first encountered teachers from Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education.

"They were always so spirited about Notre Dame. They were great teachers. That’s why I always wanted to go there," Castillo said Monday. Both schools have teachers from the ACE program. She also said Michael Motyl, the school president at GRMS and Saint Joseph’s and a Notre Dame graduate, was an encouraging influence.

Motyl said Castillo’s acceptance at Notre Dame "is a prime example of the effect of Catholic education and why it’s so important to make Catholic education accessible to students." He said he’s known her since she was a sixth-grader at GRMS.

Castillo’s mother Angeles Martinez said her daughter has shown maturity beyond her years in completing the Quest Bridge application process. Martinez divorced when Ashlley was 3. She is a janitor at Cromack Elementary in Southmost, where Ashlley attended before GRMS, and speaks mainly Spanish.

"She’s very responsible and she fights for what she wants," Martinez said. "She’s always had faith in God and what he has in store for her."

Martinez also credited Ashlley’s college counselor Vilma Wolfe for guiding her through the Quest Bridge application process and expressed appreciation to Motyl and the Rev. Salvador Ramirez at Christ the King Catholic Church in Brownsville, who wrote a letter of recommendation.

QuestBridge bills itself as a powerful platform that connects the nation’s brightest students from low-income backgrounds with leading institutions of higher education and further opportunities. QuestBridge recruits, develops, and supports motivated low-income students beginning in high school, through college and to their early career to be successful at America’s best colleges, graduate schools, and companies, according to its website.

Ashlley received notification early one December morning that she was one of 5,200 Quest Bridge scholars had been matched with a partner university. But she waited until after school to share the news with her friends. That’s when she learned that she had been matched with Notre Dame.

Athough eager to begin her new journey Castillo is also able to slow down and acknowledge that her faith played a major role in her accomplishments.

"I have really fallen in love with Catholic education," she said. "I love being able to go to Mass, and I’ve always been involved with my parish, Christ the King. That’s why I came to St. Joe. And being here my faith just grew. I get a little bit of God every day."

glong@brownsvilleherald.com

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