150 Native students named Gates Millennium Scholars

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Top high school students from American Indian and Alaska Native communities will launch their college careers as Gates Millennium Scholars this fall.

One hundred and fifty high school graduates from 37 different American Indian tribes in 18 states have been accepted into the prestigious scholarship program, which can provide funding through both undergraduate and graduate studies.

The Gates Millennium Scholars Program was established in 1999 with an initial funding of $1 billion from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to provide outstanding, low-income black, American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian Pacific Islander American, and Hispanic-American students with an opportunity to complete an undergraduate college education in any discipline area.

The scholars also may request postgraduate funding for a degree program in education, engineering, library science, mathematics, public health or science. The program’s goal is to promote academic excellence by providing thousands of outstanding students, who have significant financial need, the opportunity to reach their full potential.

More than 12,000 scholars have been supported since the program’s inception.

The Gates Millennium Scholars Program is administered by the United Negro College Fund in partnership with the American Indian Graduate Center.

For the 2007 – 08 academic year, AIGC awarded $7.5 million to 610 Native scholars. The 610 includes new freshman, students who have maintained their scholarships and students who are pursuing graduate and professional degrees. The average award is $12,450 per student per academic year.

Overall, for the 2008 – 09 school year, the Gates Millennium Scholars program awarded 1,000 scholarships to highly talented students of color, including the 150 American Indian/Alaska Native students. The 2008 class of Gates Millennium Scholars graduated from more than 800 high schools, representing 47 states and American territories, and will attend 360 different institutions of higher learning.

Competition for the scholarships is fierce.

“The application process is competitive and rigorous but the caliber of the applicants we receive makes the selection process even more challenging. Impressive is the only word to describe these applicants,” American Indian Graduate Center Director Sam Deloria said in a press release.

The scholarship program provides more than funding, said Christa Moya, director of Financial Aid and Student Services for the AIGC Scholars program.

“All Gates Scholars are engaged in an innovative leadership program designed to enhance their academic and leadership skills. As a result, Gates Scholars have a five-year graduation rate of 77.6 percent and are highly sought after by organizations and corporations when they complete
their education.”

Gates Scholars have established a record of excellence in school and in life, she said. GMS recipients stay in school, are involved with both campus and home communities and complete their education. They also continue to give back after their academic careers are complete.

The GMS application process is now open for the 2009 academic year. The deadline for submitting all application materials is Jan. 12. For more information, visit www.aigcs.org or call (877) 690-GMSP, or call AIGC Scholars at (866) 884-7007.