Gates Millennium Scholarship Winners 2014, Gates Millennium Scholarship Recipients 2014

Luis Galvan, 17, a senior at La Jolla High School, joins a procession of scholarship winners during a Reality Changers ceremony at the University of San Diego on Sunday. Galvan will head to UC Berkley in the fall. Photos by Nancee E. Lewis / Nancee Lewis Photography.

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Seventeen-year-old Luis Galvan has spent more than his share of time at the hospital during his young life, caring for loved ones afflicted with cancer and other ailments.

Galvan, a College Area resident and senior at La Jolla High School, was there when his 18-year-old cousin died of a brain tumor. He was again at the hospital again when his grandfather battled and eventually succumbed to lung cancer and yet again when his uncle died of a separate illness.

And while he couldn’t shield his family from disease and death as a boy, Galvan very well may help others as a man. That is thanks to a local nonprofit that guided his passion for medical research — he wants to be a doctor — and a prestigious scholarship that will pay for college and any graduate training he chooses to pursue.


May 18, 2014. San Diego, CA. ..University of San Diego hosted the 14th Annual Reality Changers Scholarship Celebration at the Jenny Craig Pavillion at its Linda Vista campus on Sunday afternoon. The keynote address was given by former Mexican President Vincente Fox. ..Five Reality Changer program graduates have been selected as Gates Millennium Scholars and will each receive a scholarship valued at close to $500,000. Reality Changers is Funded by Bill and Melinda Gates, and the scholarship program is one of the nation’s most prestigious awards with only 1,000 high school seniors across the nation being selected every year…Here, some 250 scholarship recipients head into the Pavillion for the start of the celebration activities. Each student is holding a banner of the college they will attend in the fall. … . 2014 Nancee E. Lewis / Nancee Lewis Photography. .Photos by Nancee E. Lewis / Nancee Lewis Photography.

Galvan is one of five Gates Millennium Scholars to graduate this year from Reality Changers, a San Diego nonprofit that helps low-income students become the first in their families to go to college. It offers tutoring, leadership training, summer camps and assistance for students applying to college.

The scholarship program is funded by Bill and Melinda Gates. It is one of the nation’s most highly-regarded awards with only 1,000 high school seniors across the nation being selected every year.

Galvan and his fellow millennium scholars took part on Sunday in Reality Changers 14th Annual Scholarship Celebration, held at the University of San Diego. He was one of the nonprofit’s 250 graduates, many of whom beamed with broad smiles and clutched sweatshirts with the name of the college they plan to attend emblazoned on the front.

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Sporting thick black-rimmed glasses and a quiet confidence, Galvan said his many hours in the hospital pushed him on a path toward helping others.

“I wanted to make a change. I was so torn up. I wanted to make a change in any way possible,” said Galvan, who plans to study chemical engineering at UC Berkeley this fall, and eventually attend medical school.

The four other Gates Millennium Scholars to graduate from Reality Changers on Sunday are Daisy Aguilar of Torrey Pines High School; Aida Camacho of Mission Vista High School; Leslie Chavez of The Preuss School; and Brandon Zambrano of University City High School.

All of the Reality Changers graduates, and the program itself, has a big fan south of the border.

Vicente Fox, the former president of Mexico, spoke at Sunday’s event and told the graduates: “Don’t be afraid to be leaders. Don’t be afraid to dream big.”

Working with the nonprofit’s leaders, Fox said he hopes to replicate Reality Changers in Mexico to offer hope to millions of young people in his country.

Speaking after the ceremony, Norma Perez said she knew long ago that her son, Luis Galvan, was gifted.

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With the millennium scholarship, she said, her son will now have a chance to share his gifts with many others.

“It’s very important to him,” she said of the scholarship, “because it’s the future for him.”