Madalyn Vieira thought her dream of studying dairy science at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, was financially unattainable. Her family made too much for her to qualify for need-based financial aid, and she didn’t want to burden her parents with a mountain of school bills.
So she applied for scholarships furiously.
It paid off. Vieira won enough in scholarship aid to fully fund her first 2 1/2 years – $60,550.
She’s not through. Vieira has been promised a job at the creamery on Cal Poly’s campus. And the family hopes she will receive additional scholarship help from the university’s Agriculture Department endowment once she registers for classes.
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“Madalyn has gotten what Madalyn has gotten because of Madalyn,” said her mother, Mandy Vieira. “She has had no help other than what she has put her heart and soul into, and she rocked the show.”
The 2016 valedictorian of Tulare Western High School geared her entire high school education toward her career goal of working in the dairy industry, as a scientist and possibly a lobbyist on the side.
“FFA was basically my life,” Vieira said. “I lived at the farm.” A competitive high schooler, Vieira placed in many contests that showcased her competence in both the business and farming sides of the agriculture industry.
That kid blew me away. She made me look like I was standing still.
Michael Mederos, Tulare Western High School teacher
Her dedication to her education paid off when Tulare Western nominated her for the highly competitive Northern California Scholarship Foundation, funded by the California Masonic Foundation. Vieira applied and advanced to the interview portion, which she considers her strong suit, after two years of competitive job interviewing with the FFA. Vieira received $32,000 and became the first dairy science major to receive the group’s financial support.
During the application process, the caliber of the other students applying for the prestigious scholarship intimidated her.
She remembered thinking to herself: “I’m going to Cal Poly to study cows – I feel totally out of my realm. I’ll be fine if I don’t get it. Getting this far is good enough.”
But three weeks later, Vieira’s biggest relief came in a small envelope. She burst into tears when she saw the top line that read “Congratulations!”
Her second largest scholarship, $10,000 came from the “We Believe in Growing” scholarship program, funded by the World Ag Expo and E.M. Tharp Inc. Her other 23 scholarships range from $250 to $1,000.
Michael Mederos, Vieira’s agriculture business teacher, said it spoke to her character that she spent every spare moment applying for scholarships to avoid incurring costs for her parents.
“I thought I accomplished a lot in a short amount of time,” Mederos said. “But that kid blew me away. She made me look like I was standing still.”
He considers her an excellent standard for other students.
“I came to rely on her leadership,” Mederos said. “You could always count on her to take the challenge.”
Mandy Vieira agrees. She said her daughter quit sports and immersed herself in FFA opportunities once she realized her dream school wouldn’t help her financially. She remembers her daughter stayed up until 2 a.m. every night from October to March filling out scholarship applications after going to school, working at Rosa Brothers Creamery and doing homework.
Her achievements don’t come as a surprise to Dr. Richard Heers, a small-animal veterinarian in Tulare. Vieira volunteered at his clinic and works there this summer, assisting with regular appointments and surgeries.
“Madalyn is a very outstanding lady who will go far,” Heers said. “She is a hard worker. She is conscientious, caring, polite and self-motivated. I think she’ll do well in whatever field she chooses.”
Vieira was crowned District 9 Tulare County Dairy Princess her junior year. She said being princess gave her a network for searching for scholarships and getting a research internship at UC Davis, examining mastitis – inflammation in the mammary glands – in cows. She hopes to one day cure the disease.
Madalyn is a very outstanding lady who will go far. I think she’ll do well in whatever field she chooses.
Dr. Richard Heers, Cross Street Small Animal Veterinary Hospital
As Dairy Princess, she implemented a curriculum for dairy education she developed as part of the competition’s requirements.
“It was the best thing that could have happened,” Vieira said. “I could advocate for my future career.”
Her connection to the program is funding an eight-day trip to the Azores, Portuguese islands off the coast of Portugal that rely on dairy farming as one of their major industries. Tulare even is a sister city to Angra do Heroísmo, a partnership that thrives on the common industry.
Vieira loves her strong Portuguese background. Vieira’s great-grandmother’s legacy as a well-respected woman in the Portuguese community in Tulare inspired her to become certifiably fluent in Portuguese, which she accomplished her junior year. Her fluency allows her to converse with many local dairy farmers who speak Portuguese.
Vieira departed on the trip to the Azores with her father Wednesday. She will visit Tulare’s sister city and participate in a parade as the former Dairy Princess. She is excited to visit family, experience milking cows by hand and compare Azorean cows with hers back home.
“That kid is a go-getter,” Mandy Vieira said. “She put herself in every position she needed to be in to achieve her goals.”