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Excelling Student Gets Help from Gates Foundation

August 31, 2007

Excelling Student Gets Help from Gates Foundation

Not everyone can say Bill Gates came looking for them, but Salysia Perez can.

As a senior in high school, she was recruited by the Gates Millennium Scholars program to apply for the group’s college scholarship. Now, three years later, she’s still receiving money each year to cover everything her financial aid does not.

“It even gives me some extra for books and supplies and housing,” she said.

As an excelling student at her Fresno high school, she worked hard to make sure she was eligible for college. She was rewarded with a letter in the mail from the Gates Millennium Scholars group asking if she wanted to apply for the award.

The scholarships are designed for outstanding minority students with significant financial need to reach their highest potential. The scholarships began in 1999 with a $1 billion grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation with the goal of promoting academic excellence and increasing the number of minority students in education, engineering, library science, mathematics, public health and the sciences.

The scholarships require a lengthy application including nine essays, Perez said.

“It’s pretty intense,” she said. Once someone becomes a Gates scholar, they must fill out renewal paperwork each year to continue receiving the money, and maintain a 3.3 GPA. For Perez, a 4.0 student since her freshman year, that’s no problem.

Now, as a junior, the 20-year-old is making plans for her future. She’s majoring in
human biologyand plans to go to UC San Francisco for dental school. Some Gates scholars can continue receiving money even through their doctoral programs, depending on their choice of post-undergrad work. Lynette Ramirez, a grad student here at UC Merced, is also a Gates scholar.

For Perez, the Gates scholarship won’t be an option, but she’s not worried. She said she’s just happy to have this scholarship to help her get through her undergraduate degree.

“It has been a real blessing,” she said.