Abbey Castelino | Alex Rogals/Staff Photographer

A Riverside-Brookfield High School senior was one of 27 students nationwide recently awarded $40,000 scholarships from the College Board.

Abbey Castelino learned that she was getting the scholarship on March 24 when she was one of 25 students appearing in a five-minute live segment on the ABC television morning show “Good Morning America.”

Castelino, 17, thought she was on the show via Zoom to discuss the college application process and had no idea that she was going to receive a scholarship until they were announced on live TV.

“I was like, forty thousand, are we sure about that?” Castelino told the Landmark last week in a telephone interview.

Castelino and the other scholarship winners were chosen in a random drawing after completing all six steps in the College Board’s Big Future search process. Big Future is a mobile-friendly online tool developed by the College Board in 2012 to help guide students through the college selection and application process.

“They were all pretty simple tasks that you had to do,” said Castelino, who was the only $40,000 scholarship winner from Illinois. 

To encourage students to complete the Big Future process, once a student completes a step the College Board enters the student’s name in a random drawing for a $500 scholarship. When a student completes all six steps, they are eligible for a random drawing to win a $40,000 scholarship.

“The more steps that students take and the earlier they begin, the more chances they have to earn money for college from Big Future,” said Richard Green, the senior director of Big Future student engagement for College Board. “What sets these scholarships apart is that there is no application, there is no test score requirement. Rather, students are entered into the monthly drawings for scholarships when they complete actions on Big Future.”

Castelino almost missed out on appearing on “Good Morning America” and perhaps even getting the $40,000 scholarship. After her name was drawn to be one of the $40,000 scholarship recipients, an official from the College Board tried to get hold of her by phone. 

However, Castelino ignored his messages because she didn’t know what they were about and she was accustomed to getting lots of emails from the College Board. Since the College Board wanted the students to be surprised on “Good Morning America” the College Board official didn’t specify why he wanted Castelino to get in touch with him.

“When we hear of College Board, we think only of AP Exams and nothing really else,” Castelino said.

After not hearing back from Castelino, the College Board official contacted her counselor at RBHS, Mike Reingruber, and told him about the scholarship. The College Board official told Reingruber not to spill the beans but to make sure she contacted him.

“I called [the College Board] and they said we want to interview kids about the college process,” Castelino said.

Castelino plans on attending Dominican University in River Forest next fall. She wants to become a pediatrician. 

“I just really enjoy working with kids,” Castelino said.

Castelino’s mother, Premila, works as a nurse for the V.A., and as child Castelino would use her mother’s medical kit to play doctor with her stuffed animals.

She was also influenced by her own pediatrician, Dr. Elizabeth Smith. 

“Whenever I got to see my pediatrician yearly for school, she always would remember me and she would always make everything so easy and never scary,” Castelino said.

Last summer, Castelino, a resident of Brookfield, worked in the Brookfield summer day camp as a counselor.  

Castelino is an honor roll student, plays on the badminton team and is on the yearbook staff at RBHS.

She was born in India and spent the first few years of her life in an orphanage founded by Mother Theresa. She was adopted when she was 4 by a couple who had grown up in India but had immigrated to the United States. They brought her to Brookfield. 

Castelino says many teachers have influenced her but specifically mentioned Lori Glazik, her eighth-grade science teacher at S.E. Gross Middle School; Michelle Carmona, her freshmen year biology teacher at RBHS; and her Advanced Placement statistics teacher, Lindsay Mynaugh, as being big influences.

“She’s the absolute best,” Castelino said of Mynaugh. “She’s always so encouraging but she’s always so chill and funny at the same time. It’s always a really fun class to go to.”

Castelino chose to attend Dominican because she was impressed by medical internship possibilities there and a simulated hospital room the school has.

She is still a bit stunned that she is getting a $40,000 scholarship, to be used over the course of her college career at her discretion, just for completing basic tasks in the college search process. 

She knew she was eligible for drawings to receive some money for completing the six steps but never imagined such an award.

“I didn’t really expect to be winning the $40,000,” Castelino said. “I was like, oh, maybe I’ll get partially some of that money.”