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Woodridge’s Cortez aspires to be civil engineer

WOODRIDGE – Thanks to a community scholarship, Woodridge’s Gwendolyn Cortez will have a little help launching a promising career in civil engineering this fall.

The Downers Grove North graduate is set to enroll in Purdue University’s engineering school – one of the top engineering programs in the country – and will do so with a host of scholarships, including the village of Woodridge/ProLogis Foundation Grant scholarship.

The $1,000 scholarship is given annually to a Woodridge student who displays good citizenship, leadership potential, community involvement and academic excellence. Winners are selected by a panel of educators named by Woodridge Mayor Gina Cunningham.

For Cortez, who left DGN with a 4.6 GPA, the scholarship money will ease the burden of the growing costs of a college education.

“[The scholarship] is about a third of what I make over the entire summer working, so it’s a huge amount. With college, everything costs so much. It’s easy to lose track of it,” said Cortez, who also earned an academic scholarship from Purdue. “It will definitely make a big difference for me.”

At DGN, Cortez was a member of the marching band, the concert band, theater and the Outdoor Environmental Club.

While her school involvement was mostly in the arts, Cortez said she appreciates the technical skills involved with civil engineering.

“I originally wanted to be an architect, but after looking at the process, it’s a little too artsy for me. I want to be more practical with something with real life application,” she said.

“A civil engineer takes what the architect envisions and makes it work. I’ll be the one looking at the design and figuring out how you run HVAC, plumbing and electricity.”

She thinks her experience in band will play a vital role in her successes after college.

“The time I spent [at DGN] means a lot to me. Band class let’s you look at things in a different way. Math and science are so technical, and there is a right answer for everything. In band, it’s different. And collaboration is a huge deal for me – leading and working together as we did in band. That’s what encouraged me to look at engineering as a career – it’s a very collaborative profession.”

Cortez said her dream job would be converting older buildings and warehouses into apartments and residential buildings.

The 18-year-old said she has “a few friends” headed to Purdue with her but is sure to meet plenty of new friends as a member of the Boilermakers’ marching band.

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