2013 Edgewood College Community
Cheikh Sarr (l-r), Marisela Gomez-Castellanos and Yesenia
By Jonathan Gramling
The newest cohort of Community Scholars — a program Edgewood College established in 2007 to provide tuition scholarships to
primarily promising graduating seniors of color with a proven track record in community service — to enter Edgewood College this fall
have been on long journeys to get to this point in their lives, journeys that they have undertaken not only for themselves, but also their
families. These three first generation college students — Cheikh Sarr, Marisela Gomez-Castellanos and Yesenia Villalpando-Torres —
have come from places far and wide, taking the path of community service once they arrived in Madison to aschieve and fulfill
themselves. Sarr is from Senegal, West Africa, Gomez-Castellanos from Oaxaca, Mexico via Los Angeles and Villapando-Torres from
While they come from different places, they come from the same place in the heart.
“Volunteering makes me feel good as a person and human being,” Sarr said. “I like giving advice to younger kids. I enjoy helping them
with their schoolwork. Being a mentor for them is a big thing for me. I like being a role model for them, a kind of big brother. I tell them
how to behave and I also let them know that anything is possible. Don’t ever give up on your dreams. And I encourage them to do better
at school by helping them do their work.”
“I was just wasting a lot of time being at home and not doing anything,” Gomez Castellanos recalled. “When I was with my dad, I saw a
lot of people doing community service. People talked about what they did and the experience they had. I wanted to get involved as well.
When I started doing community service, I really enjoyed spending time with people and knowing what I was doing was worth something
and I was helping other people.”
And volunteering allowed Villalpando-Torres to forge closer ties to the Latino community.
“I went to Centro Hispano and started volunteering with this group called Comvida, which is an at-risk, court-mandated program,”
Villalpando-Torres said. “I found out because I knew someone who had to go to the program. My parents suggested that I could volunteer
there. My parents believed that I could be a role model to a lot of our youth in our community. I strongly believed that I could help
someone succeed in life and I wanted to do that. From Comvida, I did other programs like Proyecto Lider, which is a leadership program.
And then we started our own group. It’s called Expresarte. I’ve also done the Latino Youth Summit at the UW and have volunteered with
the Mexican consulate at the Catholic Multicultural Center directing people where to go.”
The three Community Scholars have arrived at Edgewood College at the same time, a place none of them would be without the
scholarship they received.
“Without the scholarship, I don’t think I would be able to attend Edgewood because it is too expensive for me,” Sarr said. “I would be
able to attend other colleges because I was accepted to four colleges besides Edgewood. The scholarship really helped me a lot. I’m
glad I was one of the candidates accepted into this program. The scholarship made my decision easy because I was choosing between
Edgewood and Oshkosh. When I received the scholarship, it was Edgewood.”
“I was talking to my parents,” Gomez-Castellano added. “Since I am the first generation to go to college, the tuition and everything was
really expensive. My dad said that he wouldn’t be able to afford it. We were trying to see if I could go through loans and everything. I told
my dad, ‘If I get it, I will go to Edgewood. If I don’t, I will go somewhere else.’ It has really helped me because my parents don’t earn
“It is honestly the biggest blessing I have ever received,” Villalpando-Torrez offered. “If it weren’t for the scholarship, I know I wouldn’t
be attending Edgewood. I would probably be having a hard time paying for any school.”
All three scholars admit to being a little nervous as they begin this phase of their academic careers. Since their scholarships are for four
years, they are already feeling the pressure to graduate on time as they would have no other resources to stay for an additional academic
year. And yet, they are all looking forward to the experience.
“I think the thing that I am most excited about is being the first to graduate from college in my family,” Villalpando-Torrez said. “That’s a
huge deal. I am determined to be the first one. It’s kind of scary coming into college. I don’t know what to expect, since my parents can’t
really tell me what to expect.”
For now, these three scholars are traveling the same path. But in four years, they will more than likely go their separate ways once more
as they explore different paths leading to careers. Sarr wants to go into early childhood education. Gomez-Castellanos plans to achieve
majors in criminal justice and ethnic studies and a minor in Spanish. And Villalpando-Torrez seeks a degree in social work with a minor
in criminal justice
Is it any surprise that these three scholars will be pursuing careers in community service? For them, community service is not
something that they do. It is a way of life, a life that will be meaningful and rewarding.
The Edgewood Community Scholars - First row: Danny Flores-Valdez (l-r),
Marco Bravo, Marisela Gomez-Castellanos, Juniper Arthurs, Nazka
Serrano, Stephanie Munoz, Ana Selenske
Back row: Cheikh Sarr, Megan Marquardt, Andrea Sarvas, Yesenia
Villalpando-Torres, Amadou Fofana