Dalton High seniors Thao Nguyen and Suzie Martinez have been named Gates Millennium Scholars—a scholarship that pays for everything from tuition, books, living expenses, and even gas costs. Ms. Nguyen and Ms. Martinez are the 12th and 13th students from Dalton High to receive the scholarships since 2008.
To apply for the scholarship, students must be going into college, have a 3.3 high school GPA, demonstrate leadership abilities, and be of a minority race.
The deadline to apply was in January, and a lot of writing was required with the application—both Ms. Nguyen and Ms. Martinez had to turn in eight essays.
All had to be less than 1,000 words. Two were recommendation, and others described things such as their strengths, weaknesses, and obstacles.
For obstacles, the two 18-year-olds talked about bumps in the road with their families.
“My parents don’t understand my extracurricular activities, and they don’t understand why I’m never home,” said Ms. Martinez.
“I’m from a single mom family. We have a low financial standing, and my mom has to take care of my grandparents,” Ms. Nguyen said.
With strengths, Ms. Martinez said social studies (the senior has previously been nominated in Governor’s Honors in the subject), and Ms. Nguyen said math and history.
“It’s second nature,” Ms. Nguyen said of math.
In March, they both found out they were finalists.
“There was still another round, so I was skeptical,” said Ms. Nguyen.
“I went back and read my essays and questioned why they chose me,” said Ms. Martinez. “Not that I’m unqualified, I was just questioning. I couldn’t believe it.”
With this round, finalists had to send in more documents including proof of college admittance, transcripts and Free Application for Federal Student Aid.
As time to find out the scholars drew near, Ms. Martinez and Ms. Nguyen heard others were already getting their acceptance packages, and they were not.
“I saw others saying they got theirs,” Ms. Martinez said.
When they finally heard in April that they were officially scholars, they couldn’t believe they had done it.
Ms. Martinez realized when she did finally get her package, the package was big one, which usually means good news.
She was right.
“I screamed, ‘I got it, I got it!’” Ms. Martinez said.
“I couldn’t breathe for 20 minutes, and I was hyperventilating” Ms. Nguyen said.
Ms. Martinez and Ms. Nguyen are two of the 1,000 who were named scholars—5,200 first applied, 2,000 were finalists, and then the final 1,000 were chosen.
Both of the girls say winning the Gate Millennium Scholarship takes a huge weight from their shoulders.
“It’s a relief,” said Ms. Nguyen. “I don’t have the money to go to college.”
“It’s a huge burden off of my parents,” said Ms. Martinez.
To those that gave the scholarship, Ms. Nguyen said: “Thank you for believing in us and giving me the opportunity to fulfill my dream.”
Ms. Martinez added, “Thank you for taking a chance on us. I wish others with large incomes would do something like this.”
Ms. Martinez will head off to Berry College in the fall and major in animal science, and Ms. Nguyen will attend the University of Georgia to be a pre-med student.