Bill Gates is a baller. American education is expensive af. I'm infinitely grateful for GMSP.
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:
- Some Colleges Have More Students From the Top 1 Percent Than the Bottom 60. Find Yours.
- Here’s The Devastating Way Our College System Fails Poor Kids
- A nation at risk – how gifted, low-income kids are left behind
- 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!
2009 GMS WEST COAST LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE
Los Angeles, California
2012 National conference on race and ethnicity (NCORE)
New York City, New York
2013 Gms Alternative spring break
Albuquerque, New Mexico
2013 asian pacific islander american scholarship foundation (apiasf) higher education summit
2014 IVY PLUS SYMPOSIUM
2015 Bay area gms scholars regional chapter meeting
San Francisco, California
Photo Album: West Coast GMSAA
2016 asian pacific islander american scholarship foundation (apiasf) higher education summit