Local student surprised with WashU Pledge scholarship

WashU Pledge covers tuition, board for admitted Pell-eligible students from Missouri, southern Illinois

(Video: Tom Malkowicz/Washington University)

On Dec. 12, 707 high school seniors received electronic notification they been admitted early decision to Washington University in St. Louis. 

But Zussy Chavira Duron of St. Louis got the good news straight from a team of Washington University leaders and the WashU Bear, who surprised her at College Bound St. Louis with an acceptance letter and a full WashU Pledge scholarship. 

“I can’t believe this is happening,” whispered Chavira Duron while hugging her mother. She then turned to Emily Almas, assistant vice provost and director of admissions, and said, “I am so thankful.”

“You deserve this,” Almas responded. “You did all of the hard work — the studying, the essays, the application. We are so happy to welcome you to Washington University.” 

Chavira Duron is among the first students to receive a scholarship through the WashU Pledge, which provides a free undergraduate education to admitted Missouri and southern Illinois students who are Pell Grant-eligible or from families with annual incomes of $75,000 or less. The WashU Pledge covers the cost of a Washington University education, including tuition, room, board and fees. 

Chavira Duron is a senior at Collegiate School of Medicine and Bioscience in St. Louis Public Schools, where she is a member of the National Honor Society and the school’s Garden Club, Poetry Club and Pride Alliance organization. She also participated in Washington University’s Saturday Scholars Program, where School of Medicine students teach local public school students about human anatomy. 

Chancellor Andrew D. Martin announced the WashU Pledge at his inauguration in October. Within minutes, the Office of Undergraduate Admissions started to hear from excited school counselors and parents. 

(From left) Kriston Burroughs, senior assistant director of admissions; Monica M. Nickolai, college counselor at Collegiate School of Medicine and Bioscience; the WashU Bear, Emily Almas, assistant vice provost and director of admissions; Jen Smith, dean of the College of Arts & Sciences; Mike Runiewicz, assistant vice provost and director of student financial services; mother Susana Duron and Zussy Chavira Duron. (Photo: Tom Malkowicz/Washington University)

“On that day, we sent a powerful message to the talented students from our region: ‘Our doors are open,’” said Ronné Turner, vice provost of admissions and financial aid. “We believe the WashU Pledge has the power to transform Washington University, our region and, most importantly, the lives of students.” 

Chavira Duron said she chose Washington University because of its challenging academics and beautiful campus. Ultimately, she plans to study medicine or psychology. 

“I kept my fingers crossed and now the dream is coming true,” Chavira Duron said.

The university admitted approximately 41 students who will be eligible for the WashU Pledge scholarship. Overall, the university admitted 708 students through early decision and matched with another 45 through QuestBridge, which connects low-income students to selective universities through its National College Match program.