Updated: Oct 30, 2020
Daniel Ruiz, 18, of Annapolis has known some challenging times as a high school student. The 2020 Annapolis High School graduate’s family endured some homelessness his freshman year and his senior year was cut short by COVID-19. But a Comcast scholarship announced this week, and others have given him something to smile about this summer.
His college dreams are starting to come together. His freshman year away at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia is scheduled to start this fall, and a good portion of his tuition will be paid for through scholarships.
Comcast NBC Universal included Ruiz as one of the seven recipients of their Leaders and Achievers® Scholarship Program in Anne Arundel County. The other winners were Ian Dinmore of Arundel High School, Trentin Long of North County High School, Reyna Vrbensky of South River High School, Abigail Ward of Northeast High School, Cameren Watkins of Southern Senior High School, and Jon Williams of Broadneck High School.
The corporation gave 38 $2,500 scholarships in all throughout Maryland totaling $95,000. There were over 1,000 applicants in all according to Jessica Gappa,Comcast’s director of community impact for the Comcast Beltway Region
Ruiz said he was moved when he found out he he had won the scholarship.
“I was I was working,” he said. “And I was I was taking a bathroom break. And so I got a phone call and I found out, so I was a little bit in shock and I was I was tearing up. The first thing I did was I called my mom. And then I told my boss and I went back to work.”
The scholarships have been piling up for Ruiz, who garnered a 4.54 grade point average in high school. He is also one of two students in Maryland to receive the Horatio Alger National Scholarship which was another $25,000. And then there was another lesser scholarship too.
So what’s Ruiz’s secret in winning five figures worth of scholarship money? Do a good job at answering the essay questions.
The Comcast scholarship required four essay questions. Two were on the subject of how technology had impacted his education. And two were on how he had contributed to the community.
Requirements for the Horatio Alger scholarship were a little different. Applicants had to be from a low-income background as well as having had overcome personal challenges.
“I wrote about being being part-time homeless when I was in ninth grade, and having to just be resourceful living in a neighbor's basement for a little bit,” he explained. “And just how that changed my outlook on life.”
Ruiz wants to go to med school and become a neurologist. He has gotten his feet wet in the medical field by volunteering at the surgical discharge department of Anne Arundel Medical Center for the last two years.
“I would be there to serve as like a caretaker,” he said. “To help the nurses while they give IV checks. fluid intake checks, also basic custodial services.”
He also volunteered at the Center for Help in Annapolis where Ruiz helped younger Hispanic school children as a mentor after school.
“It was a program for low income, middle school Hispanic kids,” he said, “They would come after school and I would help tutor them. I would help them with their homework and then we would just build relationships.”
Ruiz, who is Hispanic, comes from a family of seven. His focus is not only to be a positive force in the community, but also to be a positive influence to his younger siblings. His parents were often away from home to work and help make ends meet. And his older brother had already gone off to college two years ago.
“When I came home to the house I was the oldest one sometimes.,” he said. “And so I had to take care of my siblings. I made them food, everything. So what I want is to show them that people like us, people who go through challenges in life, people who don't have resources, are able to succeed and make it, and make a positive impact with the community at large.”
“Our winners are leaders and achievers, just as we named the program,” Comcast’s Gappa said. “
“We believe that technology can lead to a world of opportunities,” Gappa said.“We understand the importance of providing our young people every opportunity to prepare for the future. And so we’re committed to ensuring that our youth have access to the tools needed to succeed. Leaders and Achievers are one example of that.”
Ruiz said he is putting the Comcast scholarship towards academic and technology supplies he will need at the college. That is a major focus of Comcast’s charitable efforts.
The soon-to-be college freshman took time out to thank some of the people that had gotten him to thrive academically in his education.
“I'd love to thank a couple of my mentors, Miss Kirsten, from the Center of Help and my mom,” he said.
He also thanked the scholarship providers and encouraged other high school student to try applying for their own.
“I have friends who have been given like little to no financial aid and they’ve been able to meet the gap through small scholarships,” Ruiz said. “One thousand (dollars) here, two thousand there, three thousand, and they have been able to really make a difference with it, I definitely think every student should at least put in the effort to try.”