HOUSTON – May 30, 2019 – KPRC TV morning anchor Owen Conflenti and his camera crew walked into a classroom at Spring High School with one big surprise for an unsuspecting senior.
Cindy Keeya looked shocked as she was called to the front of the classroom, where Conflenti revealed a large cardboard scholarship check for $2,500 with her name written in big letters on the front.
Keeya, who is also the Spring High School valedictorian for the class of 2019, reflected on the long journey she and her parents made from Uganda to the United States, and said “It was all worth it.”
The scholarship is thanks to a collaboration between Channel 2 and Texas Mattress Makers, which team up every year to recognize 20 deserving area seniors. The team travels across the Houston region to surprise the student winners in person and on TV. Another Spring ISD student Angela Chan from Westfield High School was also awarded a $2,500 this spring.
“Cindy is a respectful, hard-working individual who I know will succeed at anything she puts her mind to,” said college counselor Adrienne Thomas. “She possesses a positive attitude regardless of what may be going on. When things get tough, she does not breakdown and instead, she looks for a solution.”
Keeya immigrated from Uganda at a young age with her parents, who came in pursuit of the American dream. Once in the United States, her parent’s bachelor degrees were not recognized, so they had to start over again with little money.
“My parents have been there from the beginning,” said Keeya. “When I first went to school, I wanted to be like everyone else, but they kept pushing me to try harder and inspired me because they both went on to get their Masters [degree]. My plan is to give back to them and pay for their retirements.”
Her focus on working hard has paid off. Keeya was accepted this spring into more than a dozen top colleges across the state and nation, including four Ivy League universities — Yale, Dartmouth, Brown and the University of Pennsylvania. She was also admitted to other elite schools, including Johns Hopkins University, University of Chicago, Vanderbilt University and Northeastern Honors College.
She’s decided on Yale, where she will attend after winning a highly selective Gates Scholarship awarded to only 300 students across the country. Her goal is to become a doctor.
“She is an amazing student who overcomes obstacles and challenges that she doesn’t advertise but yet she strives to reach excellence in everything she does,” said Principal Diaka Melendez.
Keeya attributes her success to working hard and believing that success is possible. “I knew what I wanted when I went into high school,” she said. Of course, she also made every day count, whether it was taking AP classes, being part of the National Honor Society or volunteering at Northwest Medical Center. She also learned how to juggle a lot of different demands on her time.
“I’ve learned how to be independent, how to take care of my two younger sisters when my parents had to work overtime,” said Keeya. “I learned to take control of situations and not to let them slow me down.”