Stone Mountain High School has had a Gates Millennium Scholarship recipient every year since 2004.
Since they were freshmen, Kim Ba and Amberly Holloway have been hearing about the scholarship from teachers and from former winners who have come back to the school to talk at assemblies through the years.
Ba and Holloway are doing more than keeping the tradition alive. Both seniors earned the Gates Millennium Scholarship this school year, a first at Stone Mountain.
“It’s been great to have the students come back not only for the seniors but for younger students who might not understand what the scholarship is,” said Stone Mountain principal Carolyn Williams.
Funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Millennium is the nation’s largest minority scholarship program. Recipients are chosen based on academics (a minimum 3.3 GPA is required), financial need, extracurricular activities and community service.
A total of 1,000 students have received the scholarship across the country for 2010. The scholarship pays for the recipient’s education though graduation, including a master’s degree and doctorate.
“How great not to have to worry about normal things like most college students have to think about, like laptops, books and things like that,” Williams said. “And it gives hope for the future if they want to get a degree beyond an undergraduate degree.”
Both students have mapped out college paths that could include a master’s or a Ph.D. Ba’s plan to become a pharmacist requires a doctorate degree and Holloway said she is interested in pursuing a master’s.
“I have a sister who is 28 and I’ve seen how having a master’s degree has affected her,” Holloway said. “With this scholarship, I always know I can get a master’s.”
Ba and Holloway first heard of the Millennium scholarship from science teacher Jerry Stallworth. And they’ve been inspired by former recipients as well.
“Knowing they actually did it and hearing them tell us ‘you can do it, too’ motivated me,” Ba said.
Ba is going to enroll at Mercer University and study biology with the intent to go to graduate school to become a pharmacist. Holloway plans to enroll at the University of Georgia and major in primary education. She hopes to work with both special needs and gifted students.
“My mom came with me (to hear a former recipient speak) when I was a freshman,” Holloway said. “Ever since then she has told me I have to apply for it. She always asked me, ‘are you eligible yet?’”
Stallworth prodded Ba on a daily basis while he was a lunchroom monitor during Ba’s lunch period.
“Every single day he’d ask me ‘did you apply for the Gates scholarship yet?’”
Ironically, when they were eligible to apply, both did not tell their parents until they were notified they were among the finalists.
“I wanted to do everything on my own this year,” Holloway said.
Both students have excelled inside and outside the classroom at Stone Mountain. Both are members of the Beta Club (Ba is vice president), which requires a minimum GPA of 3.5. Ba is secretary of the International Club, and Holloway is a member of the Senior Council and Project 12 (a senior group that mentors freshmen).
“This scholarship will allow them to concentrate on grades more than anything else,” Williams said. “That’s the plus. Also, college can be a tremendous hardship on families. Now, their families won’t have that burden.”