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Dream comes true for UC's Casey Arias with full scholarship to Yale

Casey Arias called it the best day of her life.

It was December 1, a day the senior at Union Catholic will never forget. That’s when Arias received the fantastic news that she had been selected to receive a very prestigious and rare QuestBridge National College Match Scholarship to Yale University, the school of her dreams. 

Quest Bridge connects America’s brightest students with 40 prestigious colleges and universities in the U.S. It offers selected students a full ride to the college they match with. All expenses are covered from tuition, room and board, travel expenses, books and supplies with no parent contribution and no student loans.

Some of the criteria include: Grades and Rigor of Classes, Rank in the top 5-10%, evidence of strong writing ability, intellectual spark and determination.

Arias was surrounded by her family at their home in New Providence when they read the status update of her application together. The news that she had been selected for a full scholarship to Yale touched off a very emotional celebration.     

“I got an email that my decision had been released via the QuestBridge portal at school,’’ said Arias. “So I decided to drive home and open the status update with my family. I actually filmed the reaction, and I am so glad to have that special moment saved on my phone. I started screaming and my hands were shaking. I couldn’t believe that not only had I been selected to receive a QuestBridge National College Match Scholarship, but I had also been selected by my top choice! My brother picked me up and my mom and I couldn’t stop crying. Then, I FaceTimed my closest friends and even more crying ensued! Finally, my dad got home and I told him the news. December 1st was the best day of my life.’’

Arias said this unique opportunity means everything to her, and her family.   

“This opportunity means the world to me,’’ said Arias. “Yale is such an amazing institution, and to have been selected by them for a full scholarship brings me great joy and fulfillment as a high school student. Yale was my first choice from the beginning, but it is such a competitive school for the QuestBridge match as they only selected 66 students out of the thousands that applied. To me, this opportunity is a message to keep working and dreaming because anything is possible with the right attitude and support. I also like to take it as a reminder that God is with me. The first day of the decision week, I saw a beautiful double rainbow on the way to school and I knew that whatever happened, it was part of His plan. Lastly, this opportunity gives me great honor as a Costa Rican representing Central America at one of the finest institutions in the United States. I want my people to know that si se puede (Spanish for yes, it's possible). My parents came here chasing the American Dream, and I am here today because of their sacrifices. Everything I do, I do it with them and my people in mind.’’

Arias said she found out about the Questbridge National College Match Program through TikTok. 

“I found out about QuestBridge through TikTok,’’ she said. “There’s a great content creator that was also selected for the scholarship by UChicago. He makes a lot of content about scholarships available for all kinds of students. His username is @youssefuniversity, and I definitely recommend all students to start looking into accounts like his and plan for future scholarships. I was actually able to get in contact with him and thank him for having introduced me to the program that literally changed my life!’’

Sister Donna Jo Repetti, the school counselor for Arias at Union Catholic, said Arias has worked very hard to achieve this scholarship and is very deserving.   

“The adjectives that immediately come to mind when I describe Casey are leadership, creativity, perseverance, initiative, enthusiastic, resourceful, integrity, compassionate, responsible, independent, thinker, optimistic, curious, determined, self-confident, and loyal to name a few,’’ said Sister Donna Jo. “Casey is one of those students who commits to being a lifelong learner, caring about others. She has a natural drive to explore, learn, grow and encourage others to improve their quality of life and learning. She is self-motivated, and overcomes challenges with a positive attitude and grace. Casey is driven to make this world a better place. Outside school in her community she is active in local politics and serves on the town’s diversity committee. She attended the American Legion Auxiliary Jersey Girls State where she was appointed State Attorney General. She is the co-president of a registered nonprofit ESL organization. She has developed and leads a group with her peers to discuss current societal issues. Casey’s most important activity was her work as the Co-President of Aprendalo ESL. She would oversee a team of 60 tutors, curriculum developers, and marketing interns who served over 100 students weekly. Through this program, she connected her to people in Texas, California, Peru, Bolivia, Uruguay and other places around the world.''

Arias said Sister Donna Jo was a huge help during the process.

“Sister Donna Jo was a great help during this process,’’ said Arias. “She was very proactive about meeting with me and getting all the (many) required documents uploaded to my QuestBridge portal on time. She checked up on me several times and was so supportive during the entire process. She really believed in me from the beginning, and that was truly comforting as I navigated all the nerves that come with applying to college. I am so thankful for her assistance throughout the years as she worked with me on applying to Jersey Girls State and QuestBridge.''

Arias praised the teachers at Union Catholic for helping her achieve so much academic success.

“I believe Union Catholic truly has stellar teachers that help their students be their best academically,’’ said Arias. “Without the teachers I have had, I may not have been so motivated and inspired to keep working so hard. I am very grateful for my teachers at Union Catholic. Dr. Sagendorf and Mr. Rotondo both wrote the recommendation letters I used for QuestBridge and have helped shape me into the student I am today in the fields I intend to pursue in college. Mrs. Sagendorf was also a big help and Mrs. James has also been a wonderful teacher. I also told Mrs. Raite about the good news, as she has helped me explore interests beyond history and English, which I feel has made me a more well-rounded student. Finally, I am grateful to Madame Ciringione, who was instrumental in my decision to pursue learning French as a third language–a skill that has opened up new academic potential and possibilities in my life.’’

Arias also said UC’s tight-knit community helped her grow into the person she is today.

“I believe that Union Catholic’s unique community values helped prepare me to pursue the Ivy League,’’ said Arias. “Schools like Yale want students that understand the value of serving your community and working with others. I have grown tremendously since freshman year, largely thanks to the social and accepting student body. If it weren’t for the friends I have made at Union Catholic, I would not have the community values and care for others I have today. Union Catholic allows for its students to create their own opportunities, like how I was able to co-found a new club with my friend. Union Catholic taught me that if I want something, I should go for it. I think that mentality helped me "go for” Yale.’’

Arias has built a remarkable resume at Union Catholic. 

She’s the Founder and Co-President of the American Politics Club, Co-

Founder and Editor in Chief of The Gavel political magazine, is an AP Scholar with Honors, a National Hispanic Recognition Program Qualifier, a qualifier for the Grand National Tournament in Forensics, and is a National French Exam Gold, Silver, and Bronze medalist.

Outside of UC, Arias has interned for NJ Assemblyman John McKeon, is a member of Congressman Tom Malinowski's Youth Advisory Board, was a Jersey Girls State Delegate, where she was elected Councilwoman and appointed Secretary of State, and she was a campaign intern for Councilman Greg Vartan and former Councilmen Alvaro Medeiros and Stephen Yellin. 

Arias has some big goals for her promising future.  

“I applied to Yale under the Political Science major, and intend to concentrate in International Relations,’’ said Arias. “I am hoping to either become a lawyer or work in diplomacy after I graduate from Yale. If I were to pursue a legal career, I would love to become an international lawyer. If I enter the field of diplomacy, I would work toward becoming a U.S. Ambassador.’’