On top of studies, overcoming challenges, Toll Gate senior wins Horatio Alger scholarship


Toll Gate High senior Elana Caparco is one of 106 students across the nation to earn the Horatio Alger National Scholarship for 2020. Caparco will receive $25,000 from the organization to put toward her college education.

“It was very surprising,” Caparco said. “And simultaneously exciting.”

At Toll Gate, the 17-year-old is the vice president of Student Senate, Member of the Senior Student Council, Captain of the Math Team, Drama Club Member, Member of the Academic Decathlon Team, a tennis and lacrosse team member as well as the President of Best Buddies – an organization that pairs students with developmental disabilities with students without them. The organization, she said, helps in putting an end to mistreatment of individuals with these disabilities.

Aside from extracurricular involvement, Caparco aims to keep straight A’s in her AP and Honors classes, even taking an Early Enrollment Program in Spanish taught with Rhode Island College’s curriculum.

But the scholarship is not just awarded to students who are involved in activities and have good grades. The selected students do this even while facing adversity.

Caparco and her brother, who she said is on the autism spectrum, were put in foster care  following some complications with her biological parents at an early age. The two were taken in by her maternal grandmother, who is her legal guardian but is now wheelchair-bound with only one leg and is frequently in the hospital for health concerns. Her step-grandfather deals with heart complications and Caparco often finds herself as the caretaker between all three of her family members.

Despite these setbacks, Caparco has found a way to balance them all. And without the scholarship, she said, she may not be attending a school that would fit her goals properly.

Caparco said that she wants to study either government and political science or international relations. From there, she wants to find a job in foreign diplomacy. Her sights are set on Washington DC first for higher education and then a job. As of now, schools she is interested in are George Washington University, American University or her top pick; Georgetown.

Caparco speaks English and Spanish and hopes to learn more. Her plans also include some time in the Air Force following her undergraduate studies.

The scholarship is valid for the university of Caparco’s choice, which will help because she applied to about 34 of them, she said. According to Caparco, she will receive $5,000 for the first three years and then the remaining $10,000 for the fourth.

Toll Gate principal Candace Caluori said that Caparco is very invested in the school, commending her work as the President of Best Buddies. 

“She wants the best for the school and got the best out of it,” Caluori said.

Caparco said that she wants this scholarship to be a lesson for future students. She said that this opportunity is a great example for younger students to look at if they believe going to a university may not be in their future.

She took the initiative to apply for the scholarship.

The organization is named after Horatio Alger Jr., an author who wrote books in the late 1800s and early 1900s with the theme of being able to accomplish anything despite roadblocks. The author struggled to support himself as a young adult, but continued to work toward achieving success in his career. According to the Horatio Alger Association website, the organization awarded $21 million to 2,500 scholars in 2019. Since 1984 it has awarded $180 million in scholarships.


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