You literally have to be “one in a thousand” to receive a Gates Millennium Scholarship.
For Lamar CISD, it was three in a thousand. Terry High School’s Shelby Rae Guel, Foster High School’s Cyrus Montanya and Lamar Consolidated High School’s Chimsom Faith Orakwue are the District’s fourth, fifth and sixth Gates Scholars – the first for Terry and Foster, but the third consecutive year a Mustang has earned the honor.
Each year, the Gates Millennium Scholars Program selects only 1,000 talented students to receive a good-through-graduation scholarship to use at any college or university of their choice. That includes any graduate school the students choose. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation also provides Gates Millennium Scholars with personal and professional development through a leadership programs along with academic support throughout their college careers.
According to the Gates Millennium Scholar website, more than 54,000 members of the high school class of 2013 applied for the scholarship.
Two of the students have medical school planned for their future. Orakwue plans to attend Columbia University in New York City, eventually becoming a pediatrician and returning to her native Nigeria to practice medicine.
Guel has her sights set on the University of Texas in Austin, with the long-range goal of being a psychiatrist and serving in the U.S. Army.
Montanya, who was born in Kenya, will attend Harvard and major in biomedical engineering. Upon finishing his undergraduate degree, Montanya said that medical school, law school and business school are all possibilities.
“I had Faith as both a 9th – and 10th-grader in Pre-AP English, and from the start Faith struck me as a bright, ambitious young girl,” said Lorry Sumers, one of the Lamar Consolidated teachers who nominated Orakwue. “I was happy to recommend her to the Gates Committee, and I focused my comments on my true belief that Faith embodies the ideal that we hope for when we dream of those who will guide our future.
“This is a girl who’s going places!” Sumers said.
Terry High teacher Louis Horton taught Guel’s pre-calculus and calculus. He recommended her for the Gates Scholarship because of her academic ability and work-ethic.
“Shelby is a great young woman who has nothing but positives in her future. Shelby is able to quickly process mathematical concepts and apply them to any problem set presented to her,” Horton said. “She is a resource to others in class who are struggling. She freely offers assistance when needed and is quite an accomplished teacher.”
“I have worked with lots of brilliant kids in my career,” said Patricia Byers, the registrar at Foster who nominated Montanya for the scholarship, “but I have never worked with one who also had as big of a heart as Cyrus Motanya.
“Kind, thoughtful, studious and intelligent, he is a scholar and a compassionate gentleman” Byers said. “I look forward to following his career through the coming years because the sky is the limit for him!”
The road to being a Gates Scholar is long and difficult. Not only does a student have to have excellent grades, demonstrate leadership and have the recommendation of an educator, but a winning student will have written eight different essays by the end of the process.