ten years ago, today, my life changed

Bill Gates is a baller. American education is expensive af. I'm infinitely grateful for GMSP.

2008 Gates Millennium Scholar: Evelyn Obamos

I credit positive growth on my journey to many experiences and people I've met along the way, but can honestly say only few amount to the gravity of being a Bill Gates Scholar. For anyone who's never heard of the program, receiving the Gates Millennium Scholarship means a full-ride to any higher education institution with accepted admittance. The amount varies depending on your expected family contribution (EFC), but tuition, housing and some program-approved personal expenses are all paid off by the scholarship — up until doctoral studies (for certain majors). Translation: free education and a lifetime global network with the next generation of movers and shakers. 

If you're as stunned with that description as I have been for the last decade, it's hella real. So what does a poor, brown girl do when a rich, white man is about to cover her education expenses? Naturally, she decides to go to the most expensive city to attend the most expensive school. Six years of school and two degrees later, in total, rounded up to a price tag of over $250,000. All paid off. For anyone who's heard my San Francisco entry point story, y'all know this was the first of many hustles. (& you also probably know it feels super awkward for me to openly talk about this, especially on something as carbonizing as the interwebz <cue: writer's manifesto point #2>).

In retrospect, talking about money makes most people feel uncomfortable. We can easily gloss over socioeconomic disparity, especially when it doesn't directly impact us. Truth is, this scholarship was my ticket out of the ghetto. But that also doesn't mean the ride was any easier after being uprooted from what felt most familiar. San Francisco is a wealthy city, with the highest cost-of-living in the nation. I felt like a fish out of water (on occasion, still do). And statistically, brown women from the hood, daughters of a single-parent immigrant mother in a low-income family have cards stacked against them to never make it out here. 

Navigating vertical mobility continues to be a recurring theme. While many people have the comfort of a financial safety net through family within proximity or a back up monetary resource, that's not the case for everyone. Scarcity heuristics ring true where everything feels like it's always on the line, riding on any misstep or poor decisions. Meeting other Gates Scholars throughout this journey has not only been rewarding, but immensely inspiring. Since it's not a badge we wear on our foreheads or something we outwardly represent, it's not easy to identify who is a scholar. Unless, by chance, it comes up in conversation. But whenever any of us happen to cross paths, without fail, has always been healing. Funny thing is, despite meeting any scholar for the first time, we always end up instantly connecting (commiserating) on a deeper level. There's comfort in knowing people took a chance on us, and there's solidarity in wanting to see each other thrive. 


Related reading on why programs like gms are so important:


  • What was the application process?
    32 pages, 9 essays, Nominator, Recommender
  • How many people received the scholarship?
    1000 first year college students/year (between 2000 - 2014)
  • Who is eligible?
    The GMS program is made up of scholars who meet criteria awarded through these programs: Asian Pacific Islander American Scholarship Foundation (APIASF), Hispanic Scholarship Foundation (HSF), United Negro College Fund (UNCF), American Indian Graduate Scholars (AIGS). 

Below are a few chapters of an unfinished book with some incredible people all around the world. Also, I somehow unofficially officially became the official photographer/videographer for all the GMS events I attended. Scroll below to find links to memory lane! 


Los Angeles, California

GMS West Coast Leadership Conference (LA)
Bill Gates Sr.
Freshman Leadership Conference

Photo albums Day 1, Day 2, Day 3

2012 National conference on race and ethnicity (NCORE)

New York City, New York

GMS at NCORE 2012

Photo Album 

2013 Gms Alternative spring break

Albuquerque, New Mexico

2013 GMS Alternative Spring Break

Photo albums: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5, Day 6
Recap Video (8:14)

2013 asian pacific islander american scholarship foundation (apiasf) higher education summit

Washington, D.C.

2013 APIASF Higher Education Summit

Photo Albums: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4


Cambridge, Massachusetts 

GMS at IVY Plus Symposium

Photo Album: 2014 Ivy Plus Symposium
Master's Research Presentation: Deconstructing the Digital Divide
Recap Video (4:17)

2015 Bay area gms scholars regional chapter meeting

San Francisco, California

Bay Area GMS Scholars

Photo Album: West Coast GMSAA

2016 asian pacific islander american scholarship foundation (apiasf) higher education summit

Washington, D.C.

2016 APIASF Higher Education Summit
2016 APIASF Higher Education Summit

Photo Album: 2016 APIASF Summit
APIASF Scholars Video (1:51)

-- evelyn, class of 2008 GMS scholar