TX – Champayl Martin, a senior at Spring High School, recently received a huge surprise when she was announced live on ABC’s “Good Morning America” as one of 25 students across the country to receive a $40,000 scholarship from the College Board.

On March 31, the nonprofit organization surprised students in the Class of 2021 with Complete Your Journey scholarships for completing the college planning steps laid out in the College Board Opportunity Scholarships program. Martin received the news during a live virtual interview on ABC.

“I had no idea,” said Martin. “They just told me there would be an interview with myself and a group of students with the College Board.”

Currently a virtual learner at Spring High School, Martin says she applied to as many scholarships as she could qualify for on the organization’s website. “I knew that I had to put in the effort if I wanted to be able to afford to go to college,” she says. “Once I got into my junior year, I knew that I would need scholarships because I knew that I wanted to go and needed a way to afford college.”

Martin says she is involved in Peer Assistance Leadership (PAL), works part-time and is part of Spring ISD EMERGE, a program launched in the district in partnership with the Houston-based EMERGE Fellowship to prepare high-potential students from underserved communities to attend and graduate from selective colleges and universities from across the nation. She also credits the program for preparing her for college.

“It’s really helped me throughout these past few years because EMERGE taught me how to apply to colleges, how to enroll and how to become an outstanding applicant. Being a first-generation student, they’ve really provided insight and have given me opportunities that I couldn’t have asked for.”

According to the College Board, research shows that completing specific steps can help clarify the complex college planning process, especially for low-income and first-generation students.

“I come from a low socioeconomic background, so a lot of opportunities out there aren’t necessarily communicated, so with the EMERGE program, they really held our hands, walked us through the process and were really there for us,” Martin said. “They really guided us through it, and that made the college process easier. If I didn’t have EMERGE, I would be lost.”

Spring High School college counselor Adrienne Thomas, who facilitated with the College Board for the huge surprise, calls Martin “a sweet, quiet person who doesn’t have a problem with advocating for herself.”

“If she does not understand something, she will make it her mission to understand before leaving your presence,” said Thomas. “That is what I have always loved about her. Her determination and her drive to reach her goals by any means necessary.”

Over 1 million students from all 50 states have joined the College Board Opportunity Scholarships program since it first launched in December 2018. To date, students have won over $10 million in scholarships. In addition to the 25 Complete Your Journey winners from the class of 2021 who each received $40,000, nearly 4,000 additional students from 49 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands earned $3.6 million in smaller scholarships ranging from $500 to $2,000.

As for Martin, she says she has been accepted to her three top choices of Texas A&M University-College Station, Carleton College in Minnesota, and Spelman College in Atlanta. Once she makes her final choice, Martin would like to study psychology to help others.

“I want to give back to my community with mental illnesses, especially in more low socioeconomic communities where we don’t have many resources in the area,” said Martin. “It would be very beneficial if I could help in that way.”

Until then, Martin looks forward to graduating soon with a head start toward pursuing higher education, thanks to the College Board and the EMERGE program. “The scholarship will really help me,” she said. “I was trying to figure out a way to pay for school, but now that I have the money, it makes it so much easier.”