Recent Columbus Alternative High School graduate David Garcia Natividad has tallied more than $1 million in scholarships for college, but it was his time playing soccer with friends at Westgate Park that he thinks really set him on a proper footing for success.
“It really helped me build discipline — that’s really where I started to hold myself accountable — is through soccer. I just started going every day and just pushing myself,” the 17-year-old Hilltop resident said.
Now, Garcia Natividad has earned quite the haul in scholarship offers after applying to nearly two dozen schools. He’ll be attending Johns Hopkins University in the fall, where he plans to study electrical and computer engineering.
He received $83,000 in annual scholarships from the private university in Baltimore, where the average annual tuition is around $60,000. His other top choice was Ohio State University, but he said he felt the need to get out of the city and see more of the world.
“I don’t want to stay kind of in this circle, stay near everyone I know. I want to go out there,” Garcia Natividad, who graduated with a 4.3 GPA, said.
Garcia Natividad was born at OSU’s Wexner Medical Center to immigrant parents who came from Mexico. As a low-income family, he attended several schools throughout the Columbus area before his parents settled in the Hilltop area.
One of four siblings, he said his older sisters also are driven academically.
“My mom always, always gets emotional every time she thinks about (it),” he said. “She’s always saying how she’s proud of us, how she’s glad that she made this risk of coming to the United States with no money and creating a family.”
He attended Columbus Alternative High School in South Linden, a lottery-based college preparatory school in Columbus City Schools with an enrollment of just over 750. The collaborative environment there among students, Garcia Natividad said, also encouraged him to apply himself academically.
During the pandemic, he began exploring career paths and realized he liked logic and critical thinking, then searched for jobs that fit his interests and skills. He said he wants to use his education in electrical and computer engineering to help reduce how much people are connected to their devices and electronic stimuli.
“I want to be able to help separate this connection because it does break down face-to-face interactions when people are always on their phones,” Garcia Natividad said.
Graduating CCS seniors earn over $33 million in total scholarships
As of late last week, Columbus City Schools officials had confirmed that its graduating seniors earned more than $33 million in scholarship and aid money, according to a spokesperson — and that figure could continue to rise as counselors verify more awards.
One of those students was Juliane Lukambo, Northland High School class valedictorian who graduated with more than $240,000 in scholarships. She plans to attend the University of Dayton and study computer science.
Lukambo, 18, was born in Congo but spent the first 10 years of her life with her family in a refugee camp in Uganda due to violence in the country where she was born. Then her family moved to Columbus.
At Northland, she was on the school’s soccer and bowling teams and in STEM club. She interned at the Ohio Department of Transportation and attended classes at Ohio State University and Otterbein University. Lukambo said she graduated with a 4.38 GPA.
“Going into high school, I wanted to put myself out there and take the opportunities,” Lukambo said. “It is really amazing. I never expected it, and I’m very happy about it, knowing all the hard work I did was worth it.”
Some other Columbus City Schools students received large amounts of scholarship offers, including these students who each totaled more than $500,000:
- Kwagisha Mpigirwa, of Whetstone High School, $946,800.
- Selena Alvarez, of Columbus Alternative High School, $831,444.
- Nahshon Parks, of Eastmoor Academy, $748,676.
- Ashlisha Sharma Parsai, of Columbus Alternative High School, $685,400.
- Olivia Barton, of Columbus Alternative High School, $560,000.
- Ramatu Kamara, of Centennial High School, $512,128.
- Rachael Idowu, of Columbus Alternative High School, $509,228.