Three St. Thomas students have been selected out of 1,000 contestants as 2012 Gates Millennium Scholars. That’s out of more than 24,000 students worldwide who applied for the Scholarship.
Do the math. It's more than impressive for our tiny island.
Scholarship recipients Nisha Hodge, a Virgin Islands Montessori School and International Academy senior, took the news in stride, as did Charlotte Amalie High School senior Muta Abiff, who has accumulated a bevy of honors over his school career.
Dondre Dias, Ivanna Eudora Kean High School senior, however, was not quite so contained. Unabashedly delighted to talk about the honor announced in April, he says, "I screamed when I heard the news, I was so excited."
The Gates Millennium Scholars (GMS) Program selects 1,000 students each year to receive a good-through-graduation scholarship to use at a college or university of their choice.
Founded in 1999 by a $1.6 billion grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the GMS Program is the largest and one of the most effective of the nation’s scholarship programs. To date, more than 16,000 Gates Scholars – among them 18 students from the Virgin Islands – have received more than $750 million in critical financial and personal support. The result is a 93 percent graduation rate among students who enter the program.
In addition to allowing scholars to attend the institution of their choice, the scholarship provides graduate school funding in computer science, education, engineering, library science, mathematics, public health or science, along with a leadership development program with distinctive personal, academic and professional growth opportunities.
In short, the scholarship provides all the tools consistent with life-changing opportunities.
Hodge says she is looking at pursuing a medical career at New College of Florida, a small liberal arts college in Sarasota, with an eye toward becoming a pediatrician. The Source did a profile on Hodge earlier this month. .Abiff is also looking at medical career. Although he said in an interview last fall that he was looking at several schools, he wound up choosing Binghamton University, part of the State University of New York System (SUNY).
Abiff will be attending the school on a scholarship provided by Charles Kim of Alpine Securities, which provides a four-year education to students attending Binghamton SUNY.
Abiff was one of three CAHS students to win the Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation's "Laws of Life Essay Contest last year, along with taking first place in more than entries from 19 Caribbean countries in the 2011 Florida Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA) Foundation Children's Essay Contest Senior Division for his essay on "What does Sustainable Tourism mean to your Destination?"
Though gifted with literary ability, Abiff is focused on medicine. In an interview last fall, he said he had just returned from a summer internship program at the National Institutes of Health in Baltimore. He said then, and reconfirmed this week, that he is still leaning toward a career in immunology or internal medicine, with an eye to returning to practice on St. Thomas.
Abiff says now he is "strongly considering" Johns Hopkins University in Maryland for his graduate training. As for the two scholarships, he says, "The Charles Kim will take precedence, and the Gates will take over after that."
The ambitious young man says of the coming summer vacation, "I'm just going to take it easy here at home. Go to the beach."
Dias says the excitement he felt on hearing of the Gates scholarship was mixed with an element of relief. "I was a little worried about how to pay for school," he says. "But, my uncle in the states got me involved in the scholarship program, and when I looked over the criteria, I realized I could have a pretty good chance."
He says, "My cousin is an also an architect and she suggested looking at Penn State.I liked everything I saw." He says he will major in architecture, with a minor in civil engineering.
Dias says he's been kept busy by extracurricular acitivies. He's president of the Junior Lions Club, the teenage division, and vice president of financing for Junior Achievement of St. Thomas.
For now, he says, "I'll be looking for a summer job here on island."
The students will be recognized by Larry A. Griffith, vice president of the Gates Millenium Scholars program, at a reception Sunday at the Cove at Frenchman's Reef.