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Two local students named to last class of Gates Millennium Scholars

Two Newton County students have been named 2016 Gates Millennium Scholars and will receive good-through-graduation, full-ride scholarships to use at any accredited college or university in the country. Tyrik Grant, 17, son of Tarrian Grant Burnett and Kenneth Burnett, and Jesse Eldell are among the 89 Georgia students who will receive one of the scholarships.

A student at Alcovy High School and Newton College and Career Academy, Grant said he first heard about the scholarship from a man at his church, World Covenant Christian Center in Conyers. “He told me it paid for all of college, so that just pushed me to apply for it.”

“Everyone knows college is expensive and a lot of people don’t have that money to put on the table for college,” Grant said. “That’s why a lot o f people don’t go to college, or start out at a community college. Scholarship programs help students get into college and have a good college experience and get their degree without having money problems.”

Grant is the music director and DJ for the teen ministry at the church and said it was part of the extra-curricular activities that helped him earn the scholarship. He is the president of the Technology Student Association and a member of DECA, has been an assistant basketball coach for a team of 8- to 10-year-olds, and works with his mother, who owns a travel agency.

Born in Baltimore, Grant moved with his family to Newton County nine years ago. Originally, he had planned to work toward a career as a civil engineer, but a summer program at Georgia Institution of Technology (Georgia Tech) changed his mind. “I realized what I wanted to do was architecture, not civil engineering. I’m interested in skyscrapers and sports stadiums. I would like to eventually design something like the Georgia Dome.”

Grant will attend Kennesaw University for the first two years of college, then hopes to transfer to a top architectural college like Clemson in South Carolina, Ohio State University in Columbus or the University of Southern California, Los Angeles. Eventually, he wants to own his own architecture firm.

Being a Gates Millennial Scholar, he said, means “that all my hard work from when I started school to now has paid off. I knew I was going to benefit from it, but to know that what I’ve done will get me a full ride to college ... I’m just happy that I can have my college experience, and [my mom and stepdad] don’t have to worry about me as much as they would if they had to pay or I had to pay.”

Almost 90 Georgia students were recipients of this year, part of the approximately 1,000 students who were selected this year from a pool of 53,000 applicants. To qualify, students must be African-American, American Indian, Alaskan Native, Asian, Pacific Islander or Hispanic-American; have at least a 3.3 grade point average on a 4.0 scale; and must meet the Federal Pell Grant eligibility criteria.

The scholars program was established in 1999 with a $1 billion dollar endowment from the Bill and Melissa Gates Foundation. The class of 2016 is the final class of high school seniors named Gates Millennium Scholars. Administered by the United Negro College Fund (UNCF), the GMS Program, expected to end in 2029, will have selected 20,000 students from low-income backgrounds to receive scholarships covering the cost of undergraduate and graduate school at any accredited college or university

Eldell was unavailable for an interview with The Covington News.