CALUMET CITY | Jacob Reed is among the hundreds of graduating seniors of Thornton Fractional South High School in Lansing whose plans include college.
Yet Reed is unique among south suburban students because his concerns about paying for higher education are gone.
On Tuesday, the Thornton Fractional Township High School District 215 board recognized Reed as one of 1,000 recipients nationally of a Gates Millennium Scholarship.
D.215 Superintendent Creg Williams said Reed is the first student from the district to receive the scholarship, which provides guaranteed funding for Reed to earn a bachelor’s degree and continue his education all the way through a master’s and doctoral degrees.
Williams said Reed also is among a few from the south suburbs to receive the scholarship, which is awarded following a competitive application process in which Reed said he had to write several essays about various aspects of his life.
“I had to go into each part of my life in great detail,” he said. “I had to write about obstacles I have overcome.”
Reed said the hardest part of the application process was literally finishing off the final form, as his nerves became so wracked that he was convinced he had provided some incorrect information.
“My mother had to get me to calm down, and she wound up filling in my birth date,” Reed said.
Reed had significant help with the application process, as counselors at T.F. South assisted him to ensure that every step was completed properly.
Williams said that is why district officials are just as pleased about Reed receiving the scholarship as his family is.
“All of that extra work has paid off,” Williams said, adding of other districts, “Some of them have been doing this for 10, 15 years and they don’t have anything to show for it.”
Williams also said that Reed will be in a unique situation in life once his education is complete because he won’t be in debt.
“It’s always nice not to have student loans to pay off,” the superintendent said.
The millennium scholars program, funded by a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is meant to ensure the education of qualified students whose only reason for not attending college is financial. Recipients also receive mentoring and leadership development training as part of the program.
The 1,000 recipients of this year’s scholarships were chosen from 54,000 applicants.
Reed wants to study engineering, and he plans to use his scholarship to attend Indiana University/Purdue University at Indianapolis.
Whether Reed will carry his education all the way through to a doctoral degree is uncertain, although he said he likes the idea that he can consider graduate school as an option in life.
“It’s nice to know I can do it if I want to,” he said.