By Lamar Hoofbeat
In 1999, a bold vision of what America’s future would look like began to take shape in the mind of billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates. In that view, America’s leadership would include 20,000 individuals, all people of color, who would make a significant impact on the future direction of the nation.
When Lamar Consolidated High School senior Hania Kahlon checked her mail Tuesday after school, she found herself right in the middle of that vision.
The Gates Millennium Foundation program notified her that she had been named one of only 1,000 Gates Millennium Scholars for the 2011 school year. The program, established in 1999 by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, provides a full scholarship to a full-time, accredited college or university of the recipient’s choice.
“I cried and I screamed right there at the mailbox,” Kahlon said. “It was such a wonderful surprise and honor.”
The intense application process began in early January and included eight essays on topics ranging from hardships to student leadership to academics.
“We are so excited for Hania,” said LCHS Principal Michael Milstead. “She is a very deserving, involved student who is a model for others.”
Included in the application process were recommendations from classroom teachers. Science teacher Brittany Pineda was among the teachers who supported Kahlon.
“I’m super excited for her,” Pineda said. “It’s such an amazing accomplishment, and I hope it enables her to enjoy the college experience. Her teachers really believe in her.”
LCHS college facilitator Janet Buffamante assisted Kahlon and other students with the long application process.
“I hope this encourages every student to take advantage of every opportunity,” Buffamante said. “Hania is a strong, well-rounded student with a lot of community involvement. But she also has clear, realistic goals set.”
The scholarship will enable Kahlon to focus more on her college career and less on the stress of financing the pursuit. In addition, the Foundation offers mentoring services for academic and personal development as well as internship, fellowship and other scholarship opportunities.
Kahlon is no stranger to leadership. She is the 2011 Senior Class President at LCHS and spends a large amount of her time volunteering at her mosque.
“The scholarship really gives me so many more choices,” Kahlon said. “Now I’m able to consider private universities in Houston so I can stay close to my family and continue being active in my community.”