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Student Spotlight: Laura Elnairab, El Paso High

(EL PASO HIGH SCHOOL – Dec. 12, 2022) – Senior Laura Elnairab’s first computer science class at El Paso High sparked a passion she hopes to nurture while attending the University of Chicago this fall on a full-ride scholarship. Elnairab, one of eight El Paso ISD students matched to a prestigious university Dec. 1 on QuestBridge National Match Day, hopes to become a software engineer, and later become a professor of computer science. Community Engagement interviewed her for this edition of Student Spotlight.


EPISD: What are your career goals and how will QuestBridge help you achieve them? 

Laura Elnairab: My plan as of now is to become a software engineer. Later on, I hope to get my Ph.D. and become a computer science professor. With the Match Scholarship, I will now not have to worry about having debt. Now I will be able to concentrate on my education and career even more.  


EPISD: What do you look most forward to at UChicago? 

LE: I look most forward to working in the Weston Game Lab. I am passionate about creating games where one can engage more people in the world of computer science. The Weston Game Lab truly encompasses the message that video games are to not only have fun but educate our youth. With a space like this, my creativity will get to shine through. I ultimately hope to bring my passions for computer science, education, and the advocacy for diversity together.


EPISD: Tell us about your passion for computer science and how your education at UChicago will further your career goals? 

LE: Computer science is necessary for almost every field imaginable and will further its impact in the future. I began to think how applications truly affect our daily lives. Without a software engineer, I could have not called my mother through video on WhatsApp when I could not see her for long periods of time. After taking my first computer science class at El Paso High, I truly began to understand its crucial importance on the world. My education at UChicago will not only lead me to explore computer science with renowned professors but also gain connections in Chicago. 


EPISD: What other top scholarships are you currently in the running for or have received? 

LE: I had applied to the full-ride Gates Scholarship in case I was not a Match recipient. So, I am in the running for the Gates scholarship as a semifinalist, but I believe I can no longer continue to run since I have already received a full ride through QuestBridge. 


EPISD: What are your honors and achievements in high school?  

LE: I am a candidate for the AP Capstone Diploma, the Community Service Cord, Tiger of the Month, and have received numerous leadership medals whilst in JROTC previous years. 


EPISD: Tell us about Tiger Tutors. What made you want to start this program for your fellow Tigers?

LE: During the pandemic, I was a part of Student Tutors of El Paso, which aimed to help El Paso students virtually. It was understandable that many students were struggling after the pandemic as well. After returning to in-person learning the following year, I thought it was important to ensure students had a space to feel comfortable asking questions and making mistakes. Then I thought, “What if I could start a peer tutoring program? We could be tutors and we are Tigers!” So, Tiger Tutors was born. 


EPISD: What other extracurricular activities are you involved in?

LE: I spend most of my time at UTEP with computer science professor, Dr. Martine Ceberio, through the NEXUS internship. I am beyond grateful I had the opportunity to gain this experience. Through this internship is where my computer science journey began to prosper. 


EPISD: Why has it been important to you to get involved in school? 

LE: Being involved in school has made me expand my horizons. Without getting out of my shell, I would have never found mentors or made the connections that led me to the QuestBridge opportunity. 


EPISD: What have you been doing outside of school activities? 

LE: On a typical weekend, I cross the border to spend some quality time with my mother who lives in Juárez. 


EPISD: What advice would you give students interested in applying for QuestBridge? 

LE: No. 1, be your biggest fan – literally. When writing, truly think about all the hard work you have done for almost your whole life. Not only do you have to write about how incredible you are, but also motivate yourself to keep going strong through the process. 

No. 2, start researching colleges you’re interested in early. All QuestBridge partner schools are amazing without a doubt, but it is important to consider all factors when you have to ultimately rank your colleges. Your list determines the possibilities where you might spend the next four years of your life, so start early! Also, rank as many colleges as you like and be open to change. Because I ranked all 15 colleges, my probability of getting matched increased. 

No. 3, make sure your essays are one of the strongest parts of your application. I believe I matched with UChicago because of how I communicated my passions and life story through my writing. 


EPISD: Anything you’d like to add? 

LE: During the month, I was waiting impatiently for my results. I told myself everything happens for a reason. If I was ultimately chosen or not for the Match Scholarship, going through the process actually made me learn a lot about myself and helped me when applying to other colleges and scholarships in general. I understood that wherever I ended up, my personality and passions would ultimately guide me to success. I encourage everyone to try for QuestBridge because you truly never know what your path will look like.