Cornell University-bound Reed grad credits 'Upward Bound'

RENO, NV (KOLO) - Ask Lisette Gallarzo how well she did in school. The graduated senior's answers are very matter-of-fact.

“My final GPA was 5.75 with an unwaived GPA of 4.0 for all four years,” says Lisette Gallarzo. “I graduated first in my class. I also had the advanced and honors diploma,” she says.

With all of those accomplishments, the last answer is a major let down.

“I always wanted to go to college. Finances was my biggest burden,” says Lisette.

Why is she still smiling?

Let's take you back to February.

We first introduced you to the Reed High Senior during our Upward Bound Report. University of Nevada, Reno students who apply for and get into the program are asked to push themselves.

They attend study halls separate from their individual high schools, where they tackle subjects like physics, algebra, and honors history.

There are tutors and counselors who help students learn the subjects, but also how to study and take tests.

There are tours and other opportunities to learn about and visit universities and colleges.

In our interview with Lisette in February, she talked about how positive the environment was for her.

“So it just feels close and it is not competitive at all. It just feels like you have a lot more support than what you would have if you are not in the program,” Lisette said at the time.

Lisette says before the program she was unsure of herself and her abilities.

In her year and a half with Upward Bound she says she gained confidence in herself and believed college wasn't so much out of reach.

But the cost of higher education was another story.

She say she applied to 10 schools throughout the country.

Declined by some, accepted by others.

The problem was those schools only paid for some of her education.

Then came the letter from Cornell University.

“That self-doubt going into me again, I just applied for fun to see if I could get in. I never really thought I could though. They are offering me a full ride,” she says with a smile.

Not too shabby for a girl who took English as a second language until 5th grade.

She will be the first in her family with a college degree.

She says she would like to work on governmental policy that helps the underserved.

She may even run for congress one day.

Copyright KOLO-TV 2019