Desert Ridge High senior Cody Sellers will be studying business finance at Northern Arizona University, thanks to $52,000 in scholarships.
Ryan Sonnabend, a Mesquite High senior, will soon be marching, saluting and learning to take orders at the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo. His education, estimated to cost $387,000, will be paid by the government.
These Gilbert Unified School District students are just two examples of East Valley students who combined have earned more than $100 million in scholarships.
Gilbert High School 2008 graduates received more than $10.2 million.
Hamilton and Chandler high students in the Chandler Unified School District received more than $8 million in scholarships.
Higley High School students earned $2.7 million and had two students accepted to the Air Force Academy, Jeremy Marcinko and Michael McKinley.
Queen Creek High School students received $850,911, and will attend such schools as Brigham Young University, Southern Virginia University and the U.S. Naval Construction Force, in addition to in-state colleges and universities.
With rising university and housing costs, the extra scholarship dollars often mean a better opportunity at a more prestigious school.
Sellers is the first in his family to attend a four-year university, one of the requirements for the local Dorrance Scholarship Program sponsored by the Arizona Community Foundation. The foundation awards up to 25 scholarships annually to incoming freshmen at Arizona's three public universities.
The scholarship includes international travel, a social and support system, tutoring and mentoring.
"It's going to be a fun experience," said Sellers, 18, who wants to be a financial consultant or work in corporate finance.
Mother Kathy Sellers said she almost had a heart attack when she ripped open the large envelope April 28 announcing her son had received the scholarship.
"It's a dream come true, totally," said Kathy Sellers, while fighting back tears. "We were never able to put enough money aside, and we always hoped that somehow this would happen."
Cody's dad, West Sellers, died three years ago, and because of Social Security benefits he receives, Cody wasn't eligible for grants, Kathy Sellers said. If Cody hadn't earned any scholarships, his backup plan was to attend Mesa Community College.
Cody has a 3.7 GPA, is on his school's lacrosse team, and has volunteered at Mesa's Boredom Busters summer camp since the seventh grade.
Besides the $45,000 Dorrance scholarship, Cody also received a $7,000 merit scholarship from NAU to help with extra expenses. He leaves at the end of the month for a summer transition experience at the school.
"Since his dad and I didn't go to college, we've kind of drilled it into our kids' heads that they will go to college," said Kathy, who also has a freshman daughter at Desert Ridge High.
Sonnabend, bound for the Air Force Academy in October, was also accepted into the U.S. Naval Academy in November and U.S. Military Academy at West Point in February. He chose the Air Force because he's always liked airplanes and wants to be a pilot or electrical or aeronautical engineer.
"I was blown away I was accepted to all three," said the 18-year-old, whose backup plan was to attend either Arizona State University or the University of Arizona.
"I wanted to serve and thought it would be a good opportunity to learn and travel," he said.
Sonnabend has a 4.23 GPA, and is ranked 51st in his class. He is on the school's lacrosse team, plays ice hockey, and tutors fellow students.
After graduation, Sonnabend committed to five years' active duty and three years' reserve duty.
"My top choice all along was the Air Force Academy," he said.