Five students at Kenwood Academy earned a Gates Millennium Scholarship this year, which pays full tuition the college of the students’ choice. And while a lot of recognition comes with winning, it’s also a chance to break a vicious cycle for many.
They work hard and play hard, but what matters most to them is they’ve been given an opportunity of a lifetime.
Since their freshman year at Kenwood Academy on Chicago’s South Side, these students have been told they will go to college and be successful—-while breaking a vicious cycle of poverty and illiteracy.
“Both sides of my family are like that and it’s crazy,” scholarship recipient Quinasa Douglas says. “Like how did I become the one to make a difference? And initially I felt a lot of pressure because I have to be the one.”
“It’s not like I’m doing for myself I’m doing it to be a role model for the next person…to let the next girl know you don’t have to just be pretty and not be on your books,” Gates Millennium Scholar Amber Cowan says.
And they’re going to be a Gates Scholar.
“When you find the student who has the will, then you need to give them everything else because once they have that will and they have that burn,” Assistant Principal Karen Calloway says. “You give them everything they need to be successful.”
“I’m not the product of where I came from, I’m something different,” Khensu Ra Loveel says. “I’m like the diamond in the ruff. Like, I come from Englewood and the hard background but I didn’t let that define me or my character. I just beat the odds.”
The Gates Scholarship provides full tuition and room and board for students whose families need government financial assistance.
55,000 students across the country applied for just 1,000 scholarships. 52 students from Kenwood applied and the school’s five winners top all the other schools in the country.
This year’s class of 2014 has already earned $20 million in college scholarships based on merit and need.
Only three of the Gates Millennium scholars were at Kenwood Academy on Sunday, because the other two are already on the campus. One is visiting a university in the south and the other is taking college courses.
The Kenwood scholars tell FOX 32’s Darlene Hill that while they celebrate this accomplishment, they’ll make sure other family members follow in their footsteps.