Good grades lead to big bucks

By ERIC A. HOWALD Of the Keizertimes By any measure, McNary High School seniors Jessica Mendez-Vasquez and Justin Schneider defied the odds this year. In March, both were named Gates Foundation Scholars, a college funding package that will pay for all their college expenses up through and including graduate work provided they keep up their grades. The Celtics were selected from more than 24,000 applicants for one of 1,000 scholarships. The program was established by Bill and Melinda Gates to help knock down financial barriers for minority college students. “When I was applying for scholarships earlier this year, my dad was the one who suggested the Millennium Scholarship and I told him, ‘No, I’d never get that,’” said Mendez-Vasquez, a first-generation U.S. citizen. The application process itself is rigorous. Students must submit eight essays on a variety of topics. “The prompts were hard. They ask what are your most challenging subjects and least challenging subjects and you have to talk about them at length,” Schneider said. Schneider has just enough Alaskan native heritage to qualify as a minority. Mendez-Vasquez, who has a 3.7 GPA, plans to study biology at Pacific University with the goal of becoming a pediatrician. Before learning of the scholarship, she expected to attend Chemeketa Community College as part of the Chemeketa Scholars program, but the scholarship put larger aspirations within her reach. Schneider, who has a...

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