“Follow your heart and trust the process,” advises Monte Vista High School senior Paul Lopez, who won an $88,000 scholarship to pursue his dreams of higher education.

By Isela Medina, Academic Coordinator for TRiO Talent Search

UC San Diego TRiO Talent Search is happy to announce that Paul Lopez, a senior at Monte Vista High School, is the grand prize winner of the 2014 Digital Film Festival from the University of Advancing Technologies (UAT) in Tempe, Arizona. The grand prize is an $88,000 scholarship to cover his tuition when he begins his studies in digital video and cinematography at UAT in fall 2015.

Paul has been involved in UC San Diego’s TRiO Talent Search program since the 10th grade. TRiO Talent Search works with 9th through 12th grade students at El Cajon, Mount Miguel, Monte Vista and Mountain Empire High Schools in San Diego’s east county. Part of the TRiO outreach programs housed within the Center for Research on Educational Equity, Assessment and Teaching Excellence (CREATE), the goal of TRiO Talent Search is to increase college-going enrollment at these schools and to provide free services to eligible students. In its 14 year history, UC San Diego’s TRiO Talent Search has helped more than 2,000 students apply to and enroll in two- and four-year colleges.

Paul always knew he wanted to study film, and through Talent Search he took steps to surround himself with mentors and role models who would help him stay college bound.

“TRiO Talent Search works with and supports motivated high school students who are enthusiastic about pursuing a college career,” said Carri Fierro, executive director for TRiO at UC San Diego. “We’re proud of Paul’s fantastic achievement and pleased Talent Search was there to encourage him to follow his dreams.”

In addition to maintaining a competitive GPA, Paul founded the Cinema Circle video production club at Monte Vista High School. He leads club meetings where fellow video enthusiasts learn about the digital media process. The skills he acquired eventually led him to create and submit a video to UAT’s Digital Film Festival in his junior year. Although his submission did not win, Paul knew UAT was his dream school and his persistence led him to take a road trip to Arizona to visit the campus. The digital video admissions counselor encouraged him to reapply for the prestigious award. A second submission this year landed him the $88,000 scholarship.

Paul’s grand prize video submission, “Into Nether,” features two teenagers living through the chaos of an imagined zombie apocalypse that challenges the characters to look at the world in a different way. Paul spent approximately $600 of his own money to complete this summer project. He wrote the script, acted in his own scenes, and produced and edited his final product.

Paul is proud of his accomplishments and his acceptance to UAT. His advice for other high school students trying to determine which college campus or major is a good fit?

“Just follow your heart and commit to doing the research to figure out what is right for you,” he explained. “Take advantage of all the programs your school offers. Surround yourself with people who have similar goals. I was not completely sure what I wanted to be when I grew up. One day, while reading Game Informer magazine, I saw an ad for the program (at UAT).  I looked into it out of curiosity and here I am, ready to go to UAT on a full ride. Just trust the process.”

For more information on Paul’s award, visit UAT’s Digital Video Fest blog. To learn more about the TRiO Talent Search programs visit the TRiO website.