Three northern New Mexico teens have received scholarships to attend one of 18 United World Colleges around the world this fall.
Joaquin Romero of Mora, the son of Paula Garcia, will attend UWC-USA in Montezuma; Ella Katz of Llano in Taos County, the daughter of Kristen Davenport and Avrum Katz, is going to UWC East Africa in Tanzania; and Savannah Gallegos of Villanueva, the daughter of Holly and Louis Gallegos, has been accepted to UWC Changshu China.
Joaquin and Ella will begin their UWC education in August. COVID-19, however, has delayed Savannah’s education in China for one year. She, however, has the option to attend UWC-USA.
“China is not allowing international students to get the final part of their visas (to allow entry into the country),” said Savannah, who is also considering finishing her senior year at West Las Vegas High School then going to China in the fall of 2021. “I was a little disappointed at first, but now I think it’s the best thing you can do.”
The 16-year-old had the option to take UWC classes online or wait a year. Savannah said she has been guaranteed a spot on the Changshu campus for next year.
Tanzania’s borders remain open. As of mid-July, the East African country of 56 million had reported a total of 509 cases of COVID-19 and 21 deaths, according to a published report.
“The Tanzania president believes, technically, there is no COVID there, and the borders are open,” said Ella, who will fly to Washington, D.C., then Qatar and Kilimanjaro.
According to a published report, Tanzanian President John Magufuli said his country has eradicated coronavirus, but urged people to continue taking precautions.
Joaquin, Ella and Savannah are among 60 U.S. students selected for the merit-based, $25,000 Davis Scholarships. UWC is an international high school for 16- to 19-year-olds whose mission is to unite cultures through education, thus creating a peaceful, sustainable world. UWC students represent up to 90 countries at some campuses; many come from conflict regions.
The Davis Scholar program is named for philanthropist Shelby M.C. Davis, founder of and a senior adviser to Davis Selected Advisers, a mutual fund management company, who funded the scholarship program some 20 years ago.
Joaquin, 17, recently completed his junior year at Mora High School. He works at Los de Mora Growers’ Cooperative, an agricultural nonprofit in nearby Cleveland and on his family’s 50-acre ranch.
As a junior, he held a 3.89 grade-point average and was ranked fourth in his class of 23 students. He ran track, belonged to student council, and was vice-president of the MESA Club. He also studies classical piano.
Joaquin had his first UWC experience two years ago while attending the three-week summer Global Leadership Forum in Montezuma. Fourteen- to 18-year-olds from around the world engage in summer programming that focuses on arts and culture, wilderness, constructive engagement of conflict, and sustainability.
“I really liked it and liked their idea of communicating with each other, no matter our borders, and finding our commonalities on different world issues,” he said.
For Joaquin, receiving a Davis Scholarship was “a huge honor.”
“If you grow up in a rural community, you see the same people and the same faces all your life,” he said. “Then you get accepted to this prestigious private school that’s pretty much next door. It’s kind of surreal.”
Ella was raised on her parents’ organic vegetable and herb farm. She grew up crawling around in the mud, milking goats, and harvesting squash. Her home has a composting toilet, and for a while didn’t have running water.
The 17-year-old has belonged to the Taos High School varsity cross country, track, and soccer teams since eighth grade; during that time, her cross country team won two state championships, and as a freshman, she took the state title.
As a junior, Ella had a 4.4 grade-point average and also participated in speech and debate, and theater.
She applied to UWC after hearing about a friend’s experience with the Global Leadership Forum.
“I’ve always wanted to see the world and experience other cultures, and thought this would be a great way to begin that process,” Ella said.
She will be leaving for Tanzania on July 31.
Savannah applied to UWC to meet people from around the world and learn about their perspectives on life. Receiving a scholarship “seemed to be out of this world,” Savannah said.
“It was wonderful,” her mother added. “I’m very happy for the opportunity. She’s very outgoing and she’s very smart.”
As a junior, Savannah held a 3.3 grade-point average and was ranked 34th out of a class of 112 students. She was president and founder of the LGBTQ+Spectrum Club, belonged to Earth Care: Youth Allies and MESA, and was the student representative on the West Las Vegas School Board.
The second-born of three children, Savannah has worked at the Villanueva General Store and for the Youth Farm to Market.