DPS increases number of seniors awarded Gates Millennium Scholarships

Top-performing students from Cass Tech, DIA, DSA, EEVPA and King receive full-ride scholarships covering their college expenses through graduate school

Seven Detroit Public Schools seniors – two more than the previous year — are among only 1,000 recipients nationwide who will receive the prestigious Gates Millennium Scholarship award. They include a student from East English Village Preparatory Academy who will introduce First Lady Michelle Obama as she pays a special visit to the city of Detroit in celebration of the nation-wide College Signing Day.

The highly-regarded Gates Millennium Scholars (GMS) Program selects 1,000 talented students each year to receive a full-ride scholarship covering all college expenses including tuition, housing, books and supplies through graduate school to use at any college or university of their choice. The DPS recipients will attend top-ranked colleges and universities, including Spelman College, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor and Michigan State University.

The 2015 DPS recipients include:
Cass Technical High SchoolJocelyn D. Rice and Dajion N. Whitfield
Detroit International Academy for Young WomenFatema Akhtar and Sakilah Islam
Detroit School of ArtsJon David Graves
East English Village Preparatory AcademyFred Wright-Jones
Martin Luther King Jr. Senior High SchoolParis Dimick

With the number of DPS students receiving Gates Millennium scholarships increasing from five in 2013 to seven, Denise Barnes, a 12th grade counselor at Martin Luther King, Jr. Senior High School, says that students are beginning to prepare for the application process as early as 9th and 10th grades because they do not want to miss this life-changing opportunity.

“The Gates Millennium Scholarship is definitely a motivational tool for everyone,” said Barnes. “I have students who are coming to me as freshmen asking me what they can do to start preparing to apply for the scholarship. With DPS’ Gates Millennium recipients increasing, it shows our students get it, and as a district, we are definitely doing something right.”

Sakilah Islam, a senior from Detroit International Academy for Young Women, found out she was a Gates Millennium Scholarship recipient during an acceptance ceremony at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, her dream school. She received the confirmation via text message from her mother.

“My mom texted me in the middle of the program and just said ‘you got it.’ I literally ran out of the room, called my mom and she told me the news. My whole family was so excited and proud of me,” Islam said. “I don’t think it has hit home yet, but receiving the news was definitely a finalization of the fact that I really can reach my dreams.”

According to the Gates Millennium Scholars Program website, this is the largest and most successful minority scholarship program in the country. Thousands of students annually submit their applications in hopes of full-ride scholarships to countless post-secondary institutions.

Fred Wright-Jones, a senior at East English Village Preparatory Academy, National Honors Society President, athlete and co-editor of the EEVPA student newspaper, has maintained a 4.0 grade point average since middle school and also plans to attend the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor and double major in Athletic Training and Sports Management.

“I was ecstatic when I found out that I had received the scholarship,” said Jones. “My parents don’t have the finances to send me to a major university like U of M so this opportunity alleviates the concerns completely.

Adding to his recent accolades, Jones was selected to introduce First Lady Michelle Obama as she speaks in Detroit during the nation-wide College Signing Day event.

Additionally, scholarship candidates were required to complete the intensive GMS official application, which consisted of three parts: a student application submitted by the student; a nominator form completed and submitted by an educator (principal, teacher, counselor); and a recommender form completed and submitted by any adult (work supervisor or a community leader) who is familiar with the student’s community service and leadership activities.

“Even though the process is very extensive and requires a lot of work from the students, I love the amount of support that the students receive from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation,” Barnes explained. “They continued to reach out to the students throughout the process, encouraging them and even followed up with other scholarship opportunities.”

With more than $138 million in student grants and scholarships for 2014 graduates, DPS is committed to supporting all families and providing the highest quality public education available to its students.

DPS recently launched its spring Open Enrollment period, extending now through May 22. For more details, visit detroitk12.org/enroll or call 313-240-4DPS (4377).

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