LILBURN -- A young man and two young women are the talk of Berkmar High School.
They've proven to their peers, parents and teachers that with hard work and determination comes great rewards.
The high school seniors have earned free tuition to some of the country's top colleges. Come September, each of the three scholarship winners will say goodbye to a proud host of relatives and friends as they exit home for post-secondary academic endeavors.
Jose Segura, 18, of Norcross, said he was thrilled when he found out he was one of several hundred winners nationwide of the QuestBridge National College Match, which helps "outstanding low-income high school seniors gain admission and full-four year scholarships to some of the nation's most selective colleges."
Segura will attend Columbia University, where he wants to study medicine.
Lawrenceville residents Elvira Salgado and Steffany Ibanez, both 17, are also excited about their fully-paid college tuitions.
Salgado will attend Northwestern University to study political science. Ibanez will study political science and international business at the University of Notre Dame.
Ibanez said she's excited about her scholarship. "When we found out, my mom started crying she was so happy, and I couldn't believe it," she said.
Salgado said her family was "relieved" because the financial burden of attending college had been lifted.
Segura, too, said there was an element of relief to finding out about the scholarship. "It was a good feeling," he recalled.
In 2010, 310 students gained admission and full scholarships to leading colleges through the College Match.
To have three high school students receive the scholarship from one local school is uncommon, said Berkmar Principal Ken Johnson. "It's a huge honor, and we are very proud of these students," Johnson said.
Berkmar educator Joni Jameson was "lucky enough" to teach all three of the students during their time at the high school.
She said what sets the young people apart goes beyond intelligence.
"Their work ethic is far beyond anything you would expect even from the best and the brightest," Jameson said. "They give everything, and they just don't quit."
Added Jameson: "They're going to do great stuff in life, all three of them."
Jameson said the trio have become role models for their peers. "Their classmates are as excited about this as they are," she said. "They're so proud of these three."
According to its website, QuestBridge awards the scholarship to students who "have achieved academic excellence in spite of socio-economic obstacles."
All three students said they look forward to college life, but will miss their homes and families.
Segura has two sisters, Laura, 22, and Lucero, 17. His parents are Ada Manzo and Jose Segura.
Salgado has a brother, Adulfo, 12, and sister, Maria, 19. Her parents are Ana and Jenaro.
Ibanez has two sisters, Karina, 22, and Fernanda, 15. Her parents are Juana and Fernando.