WMU News

WMU students among first Gates Scholars

Nov. 10, 2000

KALAMAZOO--Eight students from Western Michigan University are among the 4,100 students from around the county who have been selected to receive financial awards through the new Gates Millennium Scholars Program. All eight were recognized at an on-campus breakfast Nov. 8.

The millennium scholars program was created last fall with a grant of private money from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle, Wash. The 20-year, $1 billion initiative targets hardworking, high-achieving students from low-income minority families.

It is administered by the United Negro College Fund, in partnership with the Hispanic Scholarship Fund and the American Indian College Fund. The merit-based scholarships that the program provides cover the remaining college costs minority students face after universities award financial aid packages.

The initiative encourages and supports students who want to complete college or continue on and earn master's and doctoral degrees in disciplines where ethnic and racial groups are currently underrepresented. It will enable 20,000 young Americans to attend undergraduate and graduate institutions of their choice and be prepared to assume important roles as leaders in their professions and in their communities.

"The best and the brightest students shouldn't be denied access to higher education simply because they can't afford it," says Bill Gates, co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. "The growing diversity of our society reminds us that all of the nation's citizens must have access to opportunity for higher education if America is to sustain and advance itself as a global, competitive democracy in the new millennium."

The WMU students who have received one of the Gates Millennium Scholarships and the amounts of their awards are:

Veola Bradford, a senior from Kalamazoo majoring in special education, $3,692.

Bernard Brown, a sophomore from Plainwell, Mich., majoring in industrial technology, $5,048.

Maria Magdaleno, a sophomore from Covert, Mich., majoring in elementary education, $9,542.

Melissa Matlewski, a sophomore from Eastpointe, Mich., majoring in special education, $10,124.

Sharnise Riddle, a sophomore from Battle Creek, Mich., majoring in marketing, $8,232.

James Sawyer, a sophomore from Marshall, Mich., majoring in computer science, $8,996.

Jessica Torrez, a senior from Kalamazoo majoring in Spanish education, $2,671.

Jacquelyn West, a graduate student from Kalamazoo, $8,955.

"We're pleased to have so many of our students named Gates Millennium Scholars," says Thomas C. Bailey, WMU associate vice president for academic affairs. "We congratulate these wonderful students for their accomplishment."

More than 62,000 students were nominated for the Gates Millennium Scholars Program this year. Plans call for 1,000 new scholars to be inducted each year, with as many as 4,000 Millennium Scholars enrolled in college at any given point during the program's 20-year span.

A unique aspect of the program is that it is operating on a pilot basis during 2000-01, its inaugural year. Next year, it will be reviewed in its entirety and, in subsequent years, will incorporate necessary changes identified in the review.

To be eligible for nomination for the inaugural group of scholars, individuals had to be U.S. citizens or permanent residents of African-American, American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian Pacific American or Hispanic descent; have been accepted into or enrolled full-time in an accredited four-year undergraduate degree program or accepted or enrolled in a graduate degree program in mathematics, science, engineering, education or library science for the 2000-01 academic year; have had at least a 3.3 grade point average on a 4.0 scale; have demonstrated leadership skills and community involvement; and have shown significant financial need.

Media contact: Jeanne Baron, 616 387-8400, jeanne.baron@wmich.edu

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