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Sacred Heart Cathedral senior wins Gates scholarship

May 8, 2015
Christina Gray

A Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory senior who grew up in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district is one of 1,000 high school scholars nationwide selected as a 2015 Gates Millennium Scholar, the school announced May 1.

Class of 2015 Valedictorian Precious Listana, 18, was chosen from an application pool of 57,000 high school seniors nationwide who met scholastic and community service requirements and will be enrolled at an accredited college or university this fall as full-time students. Listana will receive a grant to fund her tuition to the University of California at Berkeley which she enters this fall as an applied mathematics major. She will also be eligible to receive scholarship funds for postgraduate study.

The Gates Millennium Scholars Program, funded by a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation was created to provide an opportunity for outstanding African American, American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian American/Pacific Islander or Hispanic American students to reach their highest potential by removing financial barriers to college education.

Scholars were selected based on nine essays, SAT or ACT test scores, high school transcripts, two letters of recommendation and involvement in their communities. As youth commissioner and vice president of the Keystone Club of the Tenderloin Boys and Girls Club, Listana has shown leadership in making recommendations to the city on present and future youth policies.

SHC Principal Gary Cannon said the Gates Foundation is making a wise investment in Listana and her future.

“Precious has internalized and models SHC’s mission as a service-oriented leader with a commitment to living the Gospel,” he said. “She is passionate about taking her gifts and using them for the good of others.”

Listana’s family emigrated from the Philippines in the mid-1980s fleeing Marcos-era martial law. Her family which includes three siblings, settled in the Tenderloin and belong to St. Boniface Parish.

After attending De Marillac Academy next to St. Boniface, she entered SHC as a member of the Piro Scholar Program which aims to end the cycle of poverty by providing a Lasallian and Vincentian education to students in need.

“Growing up in the Tenderloin, you see the drugs, the prostitution, all of those vices every day,” said Listana. “Life isn’t fair, but you have to choose to take advantage of the opportunities in front of you. This is the one message I want to share with other underprivileged youth: There are people out there who believe in you … you just have to believe in yourself.”

This summer, Listana will travel to India to spend eight weeks as an intern researching agriculture and food security.

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