Surprise ceremony welcomes student into UChicago’s Class of 2028

First-generation student Gabriella Aviles “overwhelmingly grateful” to share emotional moment with family

Gabriella Aviles was in her last class of the week at Northside College Prep on Dec. 8, when she was called down to the school’s counseling office.

Assuming it was a meeting relating to financial aid or her college list, she was shocked to be greeted with “Congratulations!” from her parents, counselors, teachers and librarian as she opened the door.

A University of Chicago tablecloth and balloons decorated the room, and at that moment, Aviles knew: She had just been accepted into the undergraduate College’s Class of 2028 as an early decision applicant.

Watch the moment that Gabriella Aviles received the 'life-changing news' that she would be joining the UChicago community.

“I was overwhelmingly grateful that they all got to be there for this moment, especially my parents who have endlessly supported my educational pursuits with love and encouragement,” she said. “This was an emotional moment for all of us as I am the first in my family to attend college. I could not imagine a better way to receive this truly life-changing news.”

The College caught up with Aviles after the surprise ceremony to ask her about attending UChicago, which she calls “a perfect match” for her interests.

What made you decide to apply to UChicago, and what are you planning on studying?

I fell in love with the support systems UChicago has for students, specifically Chicago Public Schools (CPS) students and first-generation students like me. I attended their First Things First events online and even one in person. It was so incredible to not just listen to the panelists’ experiences, but to relate and see myself in them.

I plan on studying public policy with a specialization in education policy. My sisters and I have been to nine CPS schools collectively across the city, and both my sisters' experiences and my own have driven me towards a passion for educational equity. UChicago’s collaborative efforts with CPS, for example with the UChicago Consortium on School Research which analyzes CPS policy, makes the College the perfect match for my aspirations.

Are there any influential experiences you’ve had so far that led you to where you are today?

The moments that had the most impact on me were the most challenging moments in my academic journey. Every time I felt defeated after a test or too nervous to speak in class, I reminded myself that education is about growth. This took me awhile to realize, but it was a lesson that came with rewarding outcomes.

I pushed myself to speak in class by signing up for a class that required presentations be regularly practiced. I would study extensively and seek help from teachers in order to increase my confidence with tests. These experiences taught me to find value in my educational growth rather than just focusing on numbers in a test score. I constantly focused on growing as a student, which I believe has brought me to where I am today. 

How do you envision engaging with the UChicago community during your time here?

I am so excited to get involved in the UChicago community! I am especially interested in the Institute of Politics and all they have to offer, from the Bridge program to Speaker Series events. I am looking forward to collaborating with the community, making change and broadening my understanding of policy.

I am really looking forward to being a part of such a passionate community, and engaging with all the unique attributes of UChicago like $1 milkshakes, house traditions and the Core Curriculum. It is so difficult to put into words how grateful I am for the opportunity to be a part of such an incredible institution.

A version of this story first appeared on the College website.