Jose Cruz and his family moved to North Georgia when he was two years old, looking for better opportunities. Now a senior preparing to graduate from McCallie School, Jose has a first-hand realization of why our nation is called the Land of Opportunity.
Through the generosity of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Jose’s college education – undergraduate, graduate and all costs associated with higher education – will be completely covered by a Gates Millennium Scholarship.
Funded by a $1.6 billion grant, the Gates Foundation program was set up to help low-income minority students with higher education costs and steer them toward careers in education, engineering and the sciences. Only 1,000 students out of 25,000 applicants are selected.
To be eligible for a Gates Scholarship, a student must be African-American, American-Indian or Alaska native, Asian Pacific Islander American or Hispanic-American who is a U.S. citizen. He or she must have a grade point average of 3.3 or above, have demonstrated leadership qualities and met federal Pell Grant eligibility criteria.
Brian Beckley, associate director of college guidance at McCallie, first met with Jose in September 2011 and learned that Jose would be the first in his family to graduate from high school and move on to college. He learned that he cares for his three siblings in the evenings at their Dalton home until his parents return from work, then after dinner, leaves for his job at a grocery store until 11 p.m. He makes the 30-minute drive from Dalton to school every day.
“What impressed me is that Jose came to McCallie and made the most of his opportunities here,” Mr. Beckley says. “What he has accomplished sends a message that if a student works hard and takes advantage of the opportunities presented, good things will happen.
“It is more difficult to earn this scholarship than to get into Stanford. The Gates Scholarship is removing all financial barriers for Jose to pursue his dreams. I am extremely happy for him, and he is very deserving.”
Jose plans to attend Furman University for his undergraduate studies. McCallie’s commencement ceremonies are May 20.
“McCallie has helped me in obtaining a good education,” Jose says. “There is no way my education would have been the same anywhere else. This is the only way I see myself not struggling like my family has done. The only way I see to proceed is to succeed.”