A dozen students from South Bay and Harbor Area high schools, including Inglewood, have been named Gates Millenium Scholars. The academic program, started by Microsoft founder and billionaire Bill Gates and wife Melinda, provides low-income students with scholarships to cover the cost of their undergraduate and graduate education.
Inglewood scholars are Jose Cervantes (Inglewood High); Esteban Espinoza (Animo Leadership High); and Jesus Madrid (Animo Leadership High). Other South Bay recipients attend schools in Lawndale, Gardena, Wilmington, Carson, and Harbor City.
They will be able to attend some of the most prestigious private and public schools in the country, including Ivy League universities, for up to 10 years. In addition to the financial support, the scholar program provides recipients with leadership development opportunities, mentoring, and academic and social support.
Recipients are among 1,000 students across the country named 2015 Gates Millennium Scholars, funded through minority education programs, including the United Negro College Fund and Hispanic Scholarship Fund , with a $1.6 billion grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
"Too many talented students of color are being forced to curtail their education and career ambitions because of financial constraints," said Bill Gates, co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which established the GMS program in 1999. "With this scholarship, we hope these extraordinary young people can attend college, earn their degree, and go on to make an impact in their professions and their communities."
The federal Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance reports that 4.4 million Americans will be unable to attend four-year colleges in this decade because of financial constraints. This is particularly disturbing at a time when jobs requiring a college degree are the fastest growing sector of the U.S. economy. The GMS program was created to encourage and support low-income racial and ethnic minority students who are academically gifted to complete undergraduate and graduate programs.
"Having the chance to follow my dream and complete my education has been a gift," said Besio, a GMS alumnus. "Now, as an educator, I have the opportunity to share my knowledge with students who will continue this work in the future.” Through the GMS program, Besio earned a PhD in biomedical engineering.
To date, more than 7,000 African-American, American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian Pacific Islander American and Hispanic American students have received the Gates Millennium Scholarship. By 2019, the scheduled end of the program, the $1 billion initiative will have helped more than 20,000 talented low-income students of color attend college, pursue their academic dreams, and embark upon their careers.
Candidates for the GMS award must be citizens or legal permanent residents of the United States. Students must also meet the Federal Pell Grant eligibility criteria, have at least a 3.3 GPA (on a 4.0 scale), and have demonstrated leadership through community service or other extracurricular activities.
This year's group of scholars was chosen from 48 states, ranging from Alaska to Puerto Rico.