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  • Son Of A Tricycle Driver And Waitress Gets $85K-A-Year Scholarship From Amherst College

    Amherst College is one of the most prestigious and selective colleges in the U.S.
    by Dahl D. Bennett .
Son Of A Tricycle Driver And Waitress Gets $85K-A-Year Scholarship From Amherst College
PHOTO BY courtesy of Gelbert Cresenscio
  • College will be a giant leap for Bohol native Gelbert Cresenscio as he prepares to fly to the United States this August 2021 in time for his orientation at Amherst College in Massachusetts.

    Gelbert has a full-ride scholarship worth $85,000 yearly to one of the most prestigious, selective, and oldest colleges in the U.S. He will take up Neurosciences — the first step to a future filled with hope for both him and his family.

    One of the 118 who got accepted from 4,900 applications

    “Amherst was the last school on my list to release their decision, and this is also my dream school,” says Gelbert, who grew up in the municipality of Talibon. He has been based in Tagbilaran City, where he took senior high school at Holy Name University.

    “When I heard that I got into Amherst, I started screaming and crying while calling my mom, and she started to cry as well,” he recalls.

    It wasn’t an easy ride getting into the private school. The acceptance rate at Amherst for the class of 2025 is 8%, but it is only 2.4% for international students like Gelbert. Out of the 4,900 international students who applied this year, Gelbert was one of the 118 who got accepted.

    Dual degree in five years

    “I chose Amherst because, being in a small liberal arts college, students have access to a myriad of opportunities and close collaboration with professors and fellow students,” Gelbert says. 

    He adds that although it is primarily a liberal college, Amherst has a strong STEM program. It has a long list of science and math courses such as Biochemistry and Biophysics, Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Environmental Studies, Geology, Mathematics and Statistics, and Neuroscience.


    Amherst also has a strong partnership with another STEM-specialized school like Dartmouth College Thayer School of Engineering. Gelbert will transfer on his third year in college and take a second course in Engineering Sciences. By the time he graduates, Gelbert will have a dual degree before pursuing his ultimate medical school dream.

    There’s an immense pressure to do well and have good grades — Gelbert’s scholarship is renewable yearly until he graduates at Dartmouth.

    Taking his family out from a cycle of debt

    Gelbert is the youngest of three sons of Edilberto and Gertrudes Crescencio. His father is a farmer and earns extra by driving a rented tricycle at night. His mother, currently restaurant waitress, used to be a storekeeper who would carry sacks of rice, arrange soft drinks cases, and work as long as 14 hours a day.


    His mom always told him to enjoy the journey, but Gelbert says, "I like to push boundaries to become the best version of myself and make my parents proud."
    PHOTO BY courtesy of Gelbert Cresenscio
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    Gelbert has big dreams not only for himself but for his parents and siblings. Both his brothers are college graduates, but they are currently unemployed because of the pandemic. His parents are “buried in debts and loans that have accumulated interest through the years.”

    While the money was used to pay for college tuition for his siblings and an operation, Gelbert laments, “the cycle (of interest) continues.” He hopes to be able to help to end it.

    “I never heard (my parents) complain about how tired they are. So I want to help my family in paying all the debts and loans so that I can give them the life that they truly deserve,” he says.

    While his parents never pressured him to study hard, he says he makes it his responsibility to study hard and dream big “to make (my parents) feel that their sacrifices have not been wasted,” he says.

    Future Filipino neurosurgeon

    Over the summer, Gelbert connected with his future classmates at Amherst and spent more time with his family, whom he will be leaving behind soon. He also took a part-time job at a manpower agency to help save up for personal things he needs to bring to the U.S.


    Gelbert, who also got a scholarship at Temple University in Pennsylvania, Heidelberg University in Germany, and St. Thomas Aquinas College in California, is excited for the new life that awaits him.
    PHOTO BY courtesy of Gelbert Cresenscio


    “I have prepared a checklist of the things that I am excited to try and this includes experiencing winter for the first time, meeting new friends, and hopefully do research in the Neuroscience field,” he says.

    He is careful, however, not to lose sight of his purpose in the U.S. “My biggest dream is to get into medical school in the U.S. and become a neurosurgeon,” he says.

    The road to medical school

    Gelbert's deep interest in the field stems from witnessing his grandfather’s health deteriorate from Alzheimer’s. “His illness and death had deepened my interest and passion for neurosciences,” he shares. “I want to integrate engineering principles to create a device that can detect the early onset of Alzheimer’s disease and also create a cure.”

    He also says that based on research, there is a shortage of neurosurgeons in the country. With only 134 medical doctors specializing in the field, there is only one neurosurgeon for every 840,000 Filipinos.

    “I have observed a lot of systemic weaknesses in provincial healthcare, and this I think is very important to solve. So I hope to pursue medical school where I can train and become one of the best neurosurgeons in the Philippines and hopefully give back to the community,” he shares.

    Surely, we are not the only ones rooting for this future neurosurgeon.

    Read here the story of a farmer's son who is headed to Duke University with a full-ride scholarship  

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