By Mary Jantsch
Class of 2013
Breaking from the flow of students between classes, she opens her bike lock and swings on her helmet. By Gonzaga standards she is nondescript: a pair of blue jeans, a white hoody, brown wavy hair. Riding off on her bike, her’s is a story of determination and brilliance.
Junior Valerie Topacio, 23, is Gonzaga’s first Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Scholar. She earned a full scholarship based on stellar academic work the past two years at Edmonds (Washington) Community College. Unlike some first-year students, there is no doubt about this nontraditional student’s passion.
“Knowledge is the absolute best thing you can do for yourself,” said Topacio, who will major in English and gender studies with a minor in journalism.
Before community college, Topacio witnessed something at the insurance company where she worked that made a lasting impression: Co-workers rolling through the motions. Topacio works hard now to ensure she will never pretend to work.
“I don’t want to be in a job where I’m unhappy,” Topacio said. “A lot of people I worked with in insurance had just fallen into it. After being there, I vowed to myself that if I’m into a career, it’s going to be something I’m completely interested in doing.”
The Foundation is so convinced Topacio will focus on her studies, it selected her as one of only 650 students worldwide for a scholarship.
“To be here is amazing,” Topacio said. “I wouldn’t be able to pursue my education if it weren’t for the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation.”
The next day, Topacio is swallowed up by a swarm of students in College Hall, and steps into stride with classmates. Eventually, she falls into Gonzaga’s rhythm, adding her own focused beat.
View the video below to see what Valerie has to say about Gonzaga so far.