The price tag – $55,000 a year.
There was no way he could afford it, but on a wing and a prayer, he applied.
“I knew I wasn’t going to be able to go if I didn’t get scholarships, so I started praying,” said Ryan, who is graduating from Southwest DeKalb High School on Sunday.
Fadhal Moore, a classmate, was in a similar boat. He wants to study government at Harvard University, but he too knew that without a great financial aid package, the $56,000-a-year price tag was going to be steep for his family.
For Ryan, Fadhal and Mickhale Green, also from SWD, and 17 other 2011 graduates from 14 DeKalb County schools, the cost of attending college will no longer be a worry after they all landed Gates Millennium Scholarships that will pay their way through college, including doctorates if that is their desire.
The 20 DeKalb Gates Scholars include Avondale’s valedictorian, Jada Henderson, and Cedar Grove salutatorian Chardé Acie.
Together, they make up the largest class of DeKalb Gates Millennium Scholars since the nonprofit began awarding scholarships in the 2001 school year. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation launched the program in 1999.
Each year, the program awards 1,000 “good-through-graduation” college scholarships to students from low-income families who might not otherwise be able make it to college. The scholarship pays all their expenses to attend college.
Cross Keys Mpaza Kapembwa said the Gates scholarship is making college very affordable.
“Having the Gates will enable me to study abroad,” he said. “It will pay for my graduate school. and the networking is priceless.”
Leticha Heflin of Arabia Mountain High is glad that she won a Gates Scholarship to pay her way through Hampton University to study politics and English.
Without it, she might not have been able to go because since Christmas her father, Donald, has been out work.
Leticha and her family were on their way to visit family in Orlando, Fla., on Christmas Day when their car flipped five times on black ice in Valdosta, trapping her inside the car. Her father punched through the windshield with his right fist to free her from the car and broke every finger on his hand.
“He has been out of work ever since,” she said.
Avondale High valedictorian Jada Henderson also is headed to Hampton University on a Gates Millennium Scholarship. She will major in biochemistry.
Towers High senior Shannon Williams, who is the lone 2011 Gates Millennium Scholar from her school, is also an athlete. She captured a silver medal in the shot and a bronze in the discus to lead Towers to fourth place in the Region 5-AAA girls track championship at Woodward Academy on May 2.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation initially funded the scholarship program with $1.6 billion.
Scholarships can be used to pursue degrees in any undergraduate major at the accredited college or university of the recipients’ choice. To date, more than 15,000 students have received scholarships. They attend more than 1,500 schools, including Ivy League colleges, flagship state universities, and historically black colleges and universities.
Scholarships are renewable annually as long as the scholar maintains satisfactory academic progress.
The 2011 DeKalb students are among 94 Gates Scholars in Georgia. Nationwide, the Class of 2011 comes from 44 states, the District of Columbia and five U.S. territories – American Samoa, Federated States of Micronesia, Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. They will be attending 334 colleges and universities.
The scholarship program provides funding for graduate school in computer science, education, engineering, library science, mathematics, public health and science.
The program, which is managed by the United Negro College Fund, has a six-year graduation rate of 90 percent, which is 45 percent higher than the national graduation rates for all students.
Michael L. Lomax, UNCF president and CEO, said the success of Gates Scholars proves that given the financial, academic and social support, low-income minority students can not only succeed in college, but excel.
“For these students, the Gates Millennium Scholarship is a pathway to a college degree and the opportunities that come with it. And for the country, it is a blueprint for how we can produce the college graduates the U.S. needs to remain competitive in the global economy.”
Scholarship winners 20 DeKalb students were awarded 2011 Gates Millennium Scholarships.
Student High School
Leticha Heflin Arabia Mountain
Jada Henderson (V) Avondale
Chardé Acie (S) Cedar Grove
Yared Aklilu Cedar Grove
Ram Siwakoti Clarkston
Mpaza Kapembwa Cross Keys
Natalie Cook DSA
Aisha Davis DSA
Jaisa Gooden Druid Hills
Darrius Hamilton Dunwoody
Terence Gipson Lakeside
Jasmyne Jackson MLK Jr.
Raven Smith MLK Jr.
Jeffrey-Michael Holiday Redan
RéKieya Ward Redan
Fadhal Moore SW DeKalb
Mickhale Green SW DeKalb
Ryan Starks SW DeKalb
Brianna Crittenden Stephenson
Shannon Williams Towers