RANCHO BUENA VISTA HIGH SENIOR NAMED GATES MILLENNIUM SCHOLAR
Ray Huard …Cassandra “Cassie” Molano is a young woman on a mission.
The Rancho Buena Vista High School senior has racked up a 4.6 grade point average – about as close to perfect as you can get.
Among other things, she ran track and field, is a member of the Associated Student Body, volunteers to distribute food to the homeless, works in her church soup kitchen, had an internship at the Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science at the University of San Diego, and, as a student ambassador for the Vista Unified School District, explains the ins-and-outs of high school to middle schoolers.
She speaks three languages – English, Spanish and French – and hopes to study a fourth in college, probably Portuguese. She also has become an amateur photographer as a hobby after taking a course in the subject at Rancho Buena Vista.
“I get bored really easily,” Cassie explained. Her hard work and many interests have paid off.
Cassie was recently named a Gates Millennium Scholar, which comes with a full college scholarship through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in a program administered by the United Negro College Fund.
The program is open to students who are African-American, native-American, Alaska native, Asian-American/Pacific Islander and Hispanic-American.
In addition to the undergraduate scholarships, Millennium Scholars receive an annual stipend to continue their studies after earning an undergraduate degree.
“Part of me hasn’t let it sink in yet,” Cassie said. “I’m still trying to focus on high school. The other part of me is, like, wow.”
Her teachers said it’s no surprise to them that Cassie was chosen for the scholarship program.
“I am very happy for Cassie, and I believe that the scholarship committee made an excellent choice,” said Rancho Buena Vista science teacher Janice Vanstrom.
“Cassie is a mature, sincere, and personable young lady who enjoys learning,” Vanstrom said. “I have thoroughly enjoyed having her as a student and feel confident that she is going to be very successful in life.”
Photography teacher Kelly Moncure said, “Cassie is such an outstanding student, with a huge amount of raw talent.”
“I’m thrilled that with each project she’s done, she has put 110 percent effort into it, and she’s got a body of very impressive, professional work,” Moncure said.
Cassie said she likes taking photos of landscapes because, “It’s kind of my way of showing others how I see things.” She’s posted some of her work on a website, http://molanophoto.weebly.com
Despite the skill she’s developed as a photographer, “I don’t see myself as an artist at all,” Cassie said. “I figure I’m a science nerd.”
Science is Cassie’s passion, and chemistry is the side of science she likes most. But her favorite class this year is advanced calculus, a course she took just to challenge herself. “It’s the hardest class I’ve ever taken,” Cassie said.
In school, she encourages other minority students to take honors classes, where she said minorities are under-represented.
“I remember the first AP (Advance Placement) class I joined. I think I was the only Mexican in the class. I felt kind of out of place,” Cassie said. “By junior year, I had a lot more people from my community in my classes. We’ve been strongly encouraging a group of our friends to take honor classes and AP classes.”
AP is a program which offers college-level courses to high school students, which can boost their grade point average.
With all her other activities, Cassie said she doesn’t have much time for television or movies.
Other than watching morning news reports, “I think the last time I watched TV was in the seventh grade.”
As for movies, Cassie said she likes those featuring Captain America and saw “Creed,” a boxing movie that was a spin-off of the “Rocky” movies. “It wasn’t what I was expecting, it was really good,” Cassie said.
Her musical tastes run to compositions that are strong on instrumentation because she likes to make up her own lyrics to whatever is playing.
Cassie’s career goal is to become a forensic pathologist. She said she couldn’t decide between the law and medicine so she picked forensics because she figures it combines a little of both – determining how people died and testifying to it in court.
She’s also interested in working with Doctors Without Borders.
In the fall, Cassie will enter Pennsylvania State University, majoring in forensic science with a minor in toxicology.
She chose Pennsylvania because she wanted to explore a different part of the country and Penn State because of its rural setting.
“I’m really interested in experiencing a lot more than California,” Cassie said. “I was maybe thinking of going to a school out of this country, but it’s very expensive.”
Cassie’s advice to students just starting high school is, “Push yourself to do more than you think you can do” and “definitely, find something you’re passionate about.”
“Use your passion to do whatever you want to do,” Cassie said. “I really like science and I’m passionate about it so I do it.”