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Posted: June 7, 2012 8:19 p.m.

3 NCSS seniors named Gates scholars

Of the 24,000 students in the United States and its territories who applied for the prestigious Gates Millennium Scholarship, only 1,000 were named recipients. Three of those recipients are recent graduates of Newton County School System Class of 2012. Alcovy High School valedictorian Robert Hight and Newton High School graduates Nancy Ejike and Laporsche Thomas have been awarded the Class of 2012 Gates Millennium Scholars good-through-graduation scholarships which can be used to pursue degrees in any undergraduate major at the accredited college or university of their choice.

The Gates Millennium Scholars Program, funded by a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, was established in 1999 to provide outstanding low income African American, American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian/Pacific Islander American and Hispanic American students with an opportunity to complete an undergraduate college education in any discipline they choose. Continuing Gates Scholars may request funding for a graduate degree program in one of the following discipline areas: computer science, education, engineering, library science, mathematics, public health or science. The goal of GMS is to promote academic excellence by providing thousands of outstanding students, who have significant financial need, the opportunity to reach their full potential.

The Gates Millennium Scholars Program also provides recipients with leadership development opportunities, mentoring, academic and social support. The program is known for its recipients' high graduation rates - a six-year rate of 90 percent (45 percent higher than the national graduation rates for all students) and comparable to the rates for students from high-income families.

In addition to receiving the Gates Millennium Scholarship, Robert Hight is also the Alcovy High School Class of 2012's valedictorian. He has been accepted to Oxford College at Emory where he plans on majoring in biology and to pursue pre-med.

"I was really surprised when I got the letter telling me I was a Gates Millennium Scholar," said Hight. "It was pretty exciting that I was one of only 1,000 who got it and there were 24,000 who applied."

"Robert Hight is a very academically talented student," said Alcovy High School principal Dr. LaQuanda Carpenter. "During his high school career, he exhibited a tremendous amount of academic focus that has allowed him to be awarded not only the Gates Millennium Scholarship, but several other scholarships as well."

Even though Nancy Ejike and Laporsche Thomas are best friends, the recent graduates of Newton High School didn't know each other had applied for the Gates Millennium Scholarship Program until they both received confirmation that they had been selected.

"I was surprised and blessed," said Ejike. "I have the chance to become somebody completely different - this is a chance to change your entire life and go to a school that you never thought you could."

"I'm humbled and blessed more than anything," said Thomas. "The chance to get this scholarship is only one in 24,000. It just hasn't hit yet that I actually got it."

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