From Austintown to Dartmouth: High achiever makes it to Ivy League

Close to 15,000 students applied for the scholarship, but only 767 were chosen - including this Austintown senior

Giavanna LaGamba, of Austintown, received a QuestBridge scholarship to Dartmouth College.

AUSTINTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Austintown Fitch senior Giavanna LaGamba is going to Dartmouth College on a four-year scholarship, thanks to a nonprofit for high-achieving, low-income high school students.

QuestBridge matches the students with some of the top colleges in the country.

In order to qualify for the scholarship, the student has to meet specific requirements – getting A’s in the most challenging courses, being in the top 5 to 10 percent of the class and getting at least a 1240 on the SAT or 28 on the ACT.

The median income for scholarship finalists is $35,000.

Close to 15,000 students applied to be a QuestBridge scholar, but only 5,338 were named finalists. Only 767 students were chosen as college match scholarship recipients.

LaGamba was one of them. She got the good news on December 1.

“Before I saw it, I was like, ‘Oh, I really hope I get it’…I didn’t know what college I was going to be going to. It’s all dependent on which college wants you from your list,” she said. “So when I opened it up, I saw ‘Congratulations’ and then I saw ‘Dartmouth’ right after that, so I knew I was going to go to Dartmouth.”

She has a 3.9 GPA, a 33 on the ACT and a packed schedule.

“She is involved in the drama club, she’s on the speech team, she does community service through National Honor Society, she has a part-time job after school, she has family obligations,” said English teacher Jennifer Leugers.

Still, the senior knows how to balance it all.

Guidance counselor Lesley Busico says “smart” doesn’t even begin to describe LaGamba.

“Gia is exceptional. She is one of the best that I have witnessed in ten years here.”

She’s the first from Austintown to receive the scholarship and attend Dartmouth.

LaGamba is majoring in environmental studies and thinking about a minor in philosophy.

While she never thought she would get a four-year scholarship to Dartmouth, LaGamba is beyond thankful for the opportunity.

Leugers and Busico are beyond proud of her.

“She’s one of the most passionate, intelligent, humble people I have ever met,” Busico said.

LaGamba is ready to start her four years at Dartmouth, but is already thinking ahead. She wants to go to law school, too, and has her eyes set on the highest office in the state. Her goal is to run for Governor of Ohio in 2026.

“QuestBridge exists because we know there are thousands of students every year who are academically qualified to attend a top college, but who don’t apply because they think they can’t afford it, or for other reasons like a lack of familiarity about their college options, or the feeling they can’t be admitted,” said Grace Sun, a QuestBridge spokesperson. “We believe that despite their low-income backgrounds, these students can thrive in rigorous academic environments and can add greatly to these college campuses.”

To apply for the QuestBridge scholarship and learn more about the work the nonprofit does for low-income high school students, visit its website.

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