Glenbard East Student Wins Elmhurst U. American Dream Fellowship Contest

February 25, 2022 | by the Office of Marketing and Communications
Winners of the American Dream Fellowship Competition Alejandra Galvan and Tristan Calvillo with President Troy VanAken

From left: Tristan Calvillo, Alejandra Galvan and President Troy D. VanAken

Elmhurst University has named Glenbard East High School senior Alejandra Galvan the 2022 winner of the American Dream Fellowship Competition, awarding her a four-year, full-tuition scholarship to attend Elmhurst U. this fall.

Elmhurst University launched the annual American Dream Fellowship Competition in 2018 to celebrate and reward first-generation college students. To enter, first-generation college students who’ve been admitted to Elmhurst were asked to submit a video with their take on the question, “How will Elmhurst University help you achieve your American Dream?“

Galvan’s winning video is an appreciation of her parents’ struggles, working multiple jobs and making multiple sacrifices, to give their children a better future. She describes her mother taking her and her brother with her to clean houses, telling them that this would not be their life, especially if they went to college.

A Lombard resident, Galvan plans to study psychology “so that I can give back to the community that has helped me so much.”

“That is my American Dream,” she says in her video, “to use the knowledge I’ll acquire at Elmhurst to help people around me, to make my parents’ dream of a better life come true, and to be a role model for my little brother and cousins, and show them that higher education is truly possible.”

Galvan and about 130 other high school students entered this year’s competition. On Feb. 21, the finalists came to campus or remotely attended Round 2, where they participated in a group activity and attended a panel discussion with current first-generation students. It was the first time Round 2 was held both in person and remotely, with some finalists joining from as far away as Arizona. The day was capped off with a recognition of all the participants, who each received a $1,000 scholarship, and the announcement of the winners.

“In this day and age you need higher education to have access to your dreams and aspirations,” said Elmhurst University president and first-generation college graduate Troy D. VanAken during the awards ceremony. “Whatever you do, take advantage of this opportunity. You have potential, you have gifts, and I’m sure you’ve had challenges and obstacles you’ve had to overcome—remember that they’ve taught you to persevere.”

At the end of the awards ceremony, the American Dream winner was revealed by playing the winner’s video. Galvan gasped in surprise to see that it was hers.

“That’s when I started crying, and then I heard my mom also crying, and that made me cry more,” she said. “I guess a part of me really hoped that it would be me, but I didn’t think it would actually happen. Then I saw (my video) and I was really excited. Overjoyed.”

This has completely surpassed our expectations,” said Galvan’s stepfather, Enrico Mazzai. “It was going to be really hard to pay for everything. … Now we don’t have to worry about any of it,” he said, laughing. “Now we don’t have to worry about anything.”

Arlington Heights resident Tristan Calvillo, a senior at Elk Grove High School, received the second-place award—a four-year room and board stipend at Elmhurst. Calvillo plans to major in kinesiology at Elmhurst and become a chiropractor as a way to help people like his mother, who has a history of back problems.

“My American Dream is not only to help my family but to maximize the health of many Americans,” he said in his video. “I encourage anyone watching—no matter how small your dream starts, hold onto it because someday it will recompense for all the hard work and commitment. One day, you will look back—I will look back—and see how far I’ve come to say that I am living the American Dream.”

Elmhurst University also announced winners of the award for best group project. Each member of the group won a $3,000 renewable scholarship that would be awarded in addition to any other financial aid each student received. The group includes:

  • Antonio Mena, from Avondale, Ariz.
  • Italibi Granados, from Glendale Heights, Ill.
  • Aaron Paz Castelon, from Glendale Heights, Ill.
  • Duane Anderson, from Muskegon, Mich.
  • Joyce Fang, from Glendale Heights, Ill.

View all photos from the event

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