“The craziest roller coaster year of my life!”
That’s how Gabriel Valdes, the very first recipient of The Community Foundation’s Dorothea B. Shaw college scholarship summed up his freshman year at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). A 2015 graduate of Mandarin High Schools AICE program, Valdes successfully competed for the Shaw scholarship, which provides $1,500/year for four years to a Duval County student who chooses an accredited college or university in the Northeastern United States.
A mechanical engineering major, Gabriel has taken full advantage of one of the country’s most prestigious educational institutions. He even got to spend a week in Japan with his engineering counterparts at the University of Tokyo, thanks to a project for one of his engineering classes. “It truly was an eye-opening experience,” he recounted, noting that it immersed him “in another culture and way of life, one that I had never really imagined before. You could even sense the differences in perspective through our approach of the same problem.”
He also joined the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) and attended its national conference in November. Connections made there helped him land a summer internship at GE Aviation near Hattiesburg, Mississippi. There he worked with a team that creates a specialized fan platform that protects jet engine blades from intrusion, such as bird strikes. He also had a research position in a lab, working under a PhD student as he developed his thesis on carbon fiber structural materials and enhancements.
Gabriel says his Shaw scholarship helps make a difference in how open he can be to opportunities. “I’ve been able to take advantage of so many things I wouldn’t have been able to do if I’d had to work a part-time job during the week,” he said. “The scholarship has been really helpful.”
Gabriel says although he’s used to ‘Southern comforts,’ he’s been very happy in the Northeast–something Dorothea Shaw would certainly have applauded. “I’ve been able to interact with so many different kinds of people, and be exposed to different attitudes and perspectives,” he noted. “It’s been great.”
The Dorothea Shaw Scholarship was created by Mrs. Shaw’s will. It is an endowed scholarship fund at The Community Foundation and will continue to provide support for deserving students in perpetuity. For more information, contact Joanne Cohen at The Community Foundation.