“I'm not a 4.0 student like everyone thinks you have to be to get scholarships,” Chamberlin said.
Balderas adds, “My mom doesn't approve of me going to college. She flat out told me, 'no'. And she wanted me to drop out and just start working.”
They're just two of the four Wichita area students to win the coveted scholarship. Both students say they probably never would have gotten the scholarship if it weren't for the aide provided by teachers, counselors and administrators at their high schools. They participated in a college prep program called AVID.
“What AVID does is it takes students who are sometimes perceived as being in the academic middle, it challenges them with rigorous courses and rigorous teaching strategies,” said Rob Compton, AVID program coordinator for USD 259. “But what it also does is it provides the support necessary for really all students.”
“Mr. Flip, he just came up to me during enrollment one day and was like, come into my office the first day of school and I’ll help you out with the Gates Scholarship,” Balderas said.
“I'm pretty sure I wrote the same essay like three times,” added Chamberlin. “That's how many times my teacher made me re-write it, fix my grammar and make sure everything sounded excellent.”
Winning the scholarship isn't easy but, with support, these two winners say anyone can do it.
“When you first get that paper and you have all these requirements of these eight essays, it's just like, ‘I don't know. I don't know if I can do it,” Chamberlin said. “But once you do it, it makes you feel good.”
And, once started, it's hard to stop. Balderas has also earned the prestigious Dell Scholarship, one of just three in the Wichita area, as well as the Presidential Scholarship at McPherson College, where she plans to study Criminal Justice and Psychology. Chamberlin will study Health Science at Friends, where he also earned Track and Cross Country scholarships. Both now plan to get post-graduate degrees, something they hadn’t even considered before becoming Gates Scholars.
The Gates Millennium scholarship can be used for any course of undergraduate study at any accredited college or university in the country. It does restrict the fields somewhat in which it can be used for graduate school.Ten Kansas students receive massive Gates Millennium Scholarships