APS still celebrating the ‘Cadillac of the college scholarship’ opportunities

An APS principal once referred to it as the “Cadillac of the college scholarships.” School counselors consider it an opportunity of a lifetime. Students know it’s a hard-earned gift that will help pave the way to their personal and professional dreams.

“It” is the Gates Millennium Scholarship, a nationally competitive scholarship award that covers full tuition, fees, books, and room and board for undergraduate school, as well as graduate school for certain fields of study. On May 19, approximately 100 parents, principals, teachers, counselors and other educators came together to celebrate APS’ 2011 Gates Millennium Scholars at an awards ceremony at Booker T. Washington Senior Academy.

Attendees were full of smiles and kudos for APS’ 20 2011 Gates Scholars, the second highest number of any school district in the nation. Although the program has been around since 1999, APS students began catching the interest of evaluators in the last several years, since 2007. By demonstrating academic achievement, leadership and community service, APS seniors earned a record 29 scholarships in 2010, the highest number awarded to any district that year. And from 2008-09 to 2010-11, APS has produced 69 Gates Millennium Scholars, more than any other district in the country over the past three years.

Flying in to the awards ceremony to help congratulate the scholars were Dr. Allan Golston, president of the U.S. Program of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and Mrs. Mary Williams, director of communications and administration, Gates Millennium Scholars, UNCF. UNCF administers the scholarship program, which was funded initially by a grant from the Gates Foundation.

The following school district officials were also on hand to mark the occasion: Ms. LaChandra Butler Burks, board member; Dr. Kathy Augustine, deputy superintendent of curriculum and instruction; Mr. Randolph Bynum, associate superintendent of high schools; and Ms. LaVerne Ware, counseling and student support services coordinator.

A highlight of the ceremony was the appearance of Deonte Bridges, who delivered special remarks. As a 2010 alumnus of Washington High School, Deonte solidified his place in history by becoming the first African-American male valedictorian of his high school in more than a decade. At graduation time, he crossed the stage with more than $1 million in scholarships, including a Gates Millennium Scholarship. The YouTube video of his inspirational valedictorian speech went viral, generating a quarter-million views last summer. Mr. Bridges is now a rising sophomore at the state’s flagship institution, the University of Georgia.

Click here to see the names of the 2011 Gates Millennium Scholars. Check out the photo gallery  from the awards ceremony, too.

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