Cielo Villa, Road to Uni
by Benjamin Fang
Oct 20, 2020 | 1416 views | 0 0 comments | 132 132 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Cielo Villa was so overcome with emotion when she found out she had won a $200,000 prize to expand her organization that she began to cry.

“I’m actually going to be able to create my vision the way that it’s in my mind,” she said.

Villa is one of five entrepreneurs selected as winners of the The David Prize, a new annual award from the Walentas Family Foundation given to New Yorkers with visions to improve New York City.

Her application was chosen out of more than 6,500 submissions, which was then narrowed down to 22 finalists, and finally five winners.

Born in Lima, Peru, Villa moved with her family to Ridgewood, where she navigated the city’s public school system.

After graduating from Wellesley in 2012, Villa created a free online resource called Road to Uni, which provides tips, essay help and support services for students applying to college.

“Information, resources and advice should be widely available and free to all students,” Villa said. “It shouldn’t be the lucky few who get into college.”

So far, Road to Uni has helped more than 1,000 students get into more than 50 different colleges, ranging from CUNY schools to Ivy League universities.

The funding will help Road to Uni scale up. Villa said she will hire web designers, video editors and others to help create content for her website and Instagram account.

“The prize has given me the luxury of time,” she said. “Now I can take the time to do everything carefully, strategize and plan it out.”

Villa hopes that by expanding Road to Uni, more first-generation and low-income students will achieve their college dreams.

“The way we do that is by making sure everyone has access to information and resources whenever they need it,” she said, “and someone to talk to for advice.”
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