There were thousands of students graduating from high school this past week, with dreams in their head of continuing their education while also wondering just how they were going to pay for it.
But for five students — one each at Thornton High School in Harvey, Thornridge in Dolton, Thornton Fractional South in Lansing, Seton Academy in South Holland and Marian Catholic in Chicago Heights — the latter isn’t a concern.
Those students were recipients last month of the Gates Millennium Scholarship, a program maintained by a foundation created by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates. Each year since 2000, the foundation awards 1,000 scholarships that cover the entire cost of a student’s education for a bachelor’s and master’s degree all the way through to a PhD, if the students so choose.
For Thornton High School graduate Trayshawn Mitchell, who plans to study political science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the scholarship is the reason he won’t be starting his education at South Suburban College.
As for Swayne Roland, of Thornridge High School, she said the scholarship will be the reason she is able to attend the University of Missouri to study nursing.
“Without this, I would not have been able to consider an out-of-state school,” she said, explaining that her family already had taken on debt to put another member through college. “I wouldn’t want my aunt to have to go through that again.”
Both students, along with Kameron Marshbanks, of Seton Academy, said they were grateful they would be able to focus on their studies, rather than also having to divert time to jobs to help pay for college costs.
“I think this will actually keep me more focused on school, because I have to maintain a certain grade point average in order to keep the scholarship,” said Marshbanks, who wants to attend the University of Illinois to study broadcast journalism. He received confirmation of the scholarship on his birthday this spring.
He also said that while he would have attended the Urbana-based school even without the Gates scholarship, however, “I don’t know how long I would have been able to stay there. That’s one less thing I have to worry about.”
Other area recipients were Sofia Salgado, of Marian Catholic, and Adonis Holmes, of T.F. South. The latter was recognized last week by the District 215 School Board, although he was unable to attend that ceremony due to a death in the family. Holmes plans to study psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Salgado plans to attend Northwestern University on a pre-med track.
Marianne Lynch, the outgoing principal at Seton Academy, said the application process is a thorough one, and that merely receiving the scholarship is a significant accomplishment.
“It’s huge,” she said. “It’s a 30-40 page application, and they check every detail to make sure it’s all true. They don’t make it easy to receive this.”
For Seton and T.F. South, this was the second student of theirs to receive a Gates Scholarship. Both schools also had winners last year.
But that falls short of the total for Thornton Township High School District 205, where the district’s three high schools have a combined total of 19 Gates winners since the program began.
Mitchell is the 14th Thornton High School student to receive the scholarship, while Roland is the fourth to come from Thornridge. Thornwood High School in South Holland had a Gates scholarship winner two years ago.
Jerry Doss, the public relations and external partnership director for the district, said it helps students from District 205 interested in the scholarship in that officials are familiar with the application process.
“We have a few 'trade secrets' to pump out the Gates winners,” Doss said.