Brianna Moses and Krupa Patel are among 1,000 students nationwide named as Gates Millennium Scholars this year. The program provides substantial scholarship awards to exceptional graduating high school seniors who must have a minimum 3.3 grade point average, demonstrate leadership skills and significant financial need.
Moses and Patel are among five students in Cobb selected as Millennium scholars. Daneilia Dwyer of Pebblebrook High School, Ciera Echols of Marietta High School, and Safia Siddiqui of Campbell High School, were also chosen.
At South Cobb, having two students selected to the selective GMS program is seen as another sign that the work it's doing to emphasize academic achievement is paying off. It's the second consecutive year the school has had a Millennium scholar.
About 200 students are enrolled in South Cobb's research and medical science magnet program. Three years ago, the program decided to increase individual counseling, providing one-on-one advice and guidance for college admissions and scholarship opportunities.
Now, the school has begun extending that focus to other students outside the magnet program, said Valerie Greyer, South Cobb's full-time magnet counselor.
"I personally wanted to go beyond just focusing on magnet students and reach out to other students as well; making sure that our school focuses on academic success for all students," she said.
A week ago, South Cobb held its first Academic Signing Day, modeled after the annual ritual of athletes signing letters of intent to attend their college of choice. Parents were invited to be on hand and celebrate with their children. A red carpet was rolled out and a photo booth was set up to capture the special moment.
Approximately 50 students participated in the event, which was the idea of Principal Ashley Hosey.
"They walked across the stage, sat at a table along with their principal and took a picture signing their commitment," Greyer said.
"Mr. Hosey wanted to not just celebrate students going to Ivy League schools - though we have students accepted to Ivy League schools - he wanted to show our commitment across the board, whether they're going to Vanderbilt University, Brown University, West Georgia or wherever. We're excited about the fact that they're furthering their education beyond South Cobb High School."
Moses, who isn't a magnet student, plans to study biology at Howard University in Washington, D.C. She is a member of the National Honor Society, student government and leadership club, a school ambassador, varsity cheerleader, homecoming queen and plays violin in the school's orchestra. She said she has a 4.1 GPA.
"I'm very grateful for the scholarship," Moses, 18, said. "I do believe that my hard work has finally paid off."
Patel, a magnet student, also plans to study biology but closer to home at Emory. She said she has a 4.5 GPA, is BETA Club president and member of the National Honor Society, Health Occupation Students of America, Alliance of Students for Cultural Awareness, and Science Club.
"It's an honor," Patel, 18, said of the Millennium scholarship. "Only a thousand people in the whole country got it and it's also very relieving to know that someone is willing to help me out with financial things for college."
Established in 1999, the GMS was initially funded by a $1 billion grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to provide outstanding, low-income minority students with an opportunity to complete undergraduate and graduate education. Award amounts are determined by financial need and based on the cost of tuition, fees, books and living expenses.
The GMS program also provides recipients with leadership training, mentoring, and academic and social support.
To date, more than 15,000 students have received Millennium scholarships.
Echols is the first Marietta High School student to be named a Millennium scholar.
"She was selected from among more than 23,000 students nationwide who applied," said MHS Principal Leigh Colburn in a statement. "It is my understanding that this year was the largest and most competitive group of candidates in the GMS program's history. We are all very proud to be represented by Ciera Echols."