Hennessey grad gets full ride to University of Chicago

Viviana Madrid appears with her mother, Rita Rojas, shortly after her recent graduation from Hennessey High School. (Provided photo)

HENNESSEY — Not many students walk away from high school with an all-expenses-paid ride to a highly rated university. Fewer still achieve this coming from a low-income, single-parent family that’s never before sent someone to college.

Viviana Madrid, who recently graduated from Hennessey High School and Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics, has achieved just that. 

Madrid was awarded a QuestBridge National College Match Scholarship that will pay for all tuition, expenses, room and board for undergraduate study at the University of Chicago.

Her scholarship and admission to the university are the culmination of a lot of hard work and study.

Madrid took every advanced placement class she could fit in her schedule, and also took advanced science and math classes through OSSM. Through it all she was a straight A student — with the exception of one B, in AP Physics.

In addition to her academic pursuits, Madrid also was active in debate, student council, National Honor Society, choir, served a term as vice president of her FCCLA chapter, and taught Sunday School at Cristo Rey Baptist Church in Hennessey.

Madrid said she was pleased to be admitted to the University of Chicago through the QuestBridge program, which first awards a scholarship, then matches them with a partner university that will admit them. 

Scholars are asked to rank their choices, one through 12. Madrid ranked the University of Chicago at the top of her list, above several Ivy League schools.

“The Ivy League schools have a reputation of attracting people who are very ambitious,” Madrid said. “I got a feeling of a very self-deprecating humor and humility from the University of Chicago, and that appealed to me.”

She plans to study psychology and rhetoric after she enrolls this fall.

“I’m really passionate about psychology and I’m also really passionate about writing,” Madrid said. “I’m just following my passions right now, and I’m not sure what I want to do after that.”

Erin McCoy, director of Upward Bound at Northern Oklahoma College Enid, said Madrid’s work ethic will enable her to pursue any career path of her choosing.

Madrid participated in Upward Bound for two years, and received help with ACT preparation, studying, researching scholarships and college admissions.

“Since Viviana joined us two years ago, we have had the pleasure of watching her extraordinary commitment to her education goals,” McCoy said. “It’s been amazing to watch her these last two years, and we’re really excited to see where her story takes her.”

McCoy said Madrid “has a tremendous internal light that is going to drive everything she wants to achieve.”

“She’s just a very personable, determined young lady who has a smile on her face all the time,” McCoy said. “Even when she is pushing herself academically, she’s happy about it. There’s a great strength in her that will help her in her college career, and in all her achievements.”

Madrid will spend part of this summer on a missions trip to Arkansas, where she will work in a homeless shelter and food pantry, and then will enroll at the University of Chicago in September.

“I’m excited about studying there,” Madrid said. “They stress discussion and debate, and I really like that. They give you the freedom to explore and study other things besides what you’re majoring in.”

The move from Enid to Chicago will be a big change for Madrid and her family — a move that was unsettling at first for Madrid’s mother.

“She was very skeptical about it at first,” Madrid said. “But, then she talked to my high school counselor and principal and she felt better about it.”

Madrid credited her mother with giving her the support and work ethic to achieve her academic success.

“My mom is a single mom and she raised me to be where I am,” Madrid said. “I want to thank her for not losing faith, for supporting me, and for being both a mother and a father. She’s a very strong person.”

Madrid said her teachers at Hennessey also deserve credit for helping her get into college, and receiving her scholarship.

“A lot of the teachers at Hennessey are very passionate about their subjects, and very loving towards their students,” Madrid said.

But ultimately, Madrid said there is a higher power to thank for her success.

“I really think this is all God,” Madrid said. “I’ve been asking and praying for years. I was praying, my family was praying, and we had our church praying. All that support and God has gotten me here.”

For other students who may not see a path to college, Madrid offered some words of hope.

“Don’t be discouraged, and follow your dreams,” Madrid said. “Anything is possible if you have determination, faith and support.”

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I am a retired Naval Officer and small business owner, outside of my work at the News & Eagle. My wife Tammy and I enjoy serving together at church and attending Gaslight and ESO. We have two daughters, three dogs and little free time.