By Jenny Johnson –
It was the best news the mailman could deliver to a high school senior. Crystal Fletcher knew that April 17 would be a special day.
“I knew it was coming that day. I just have a feeling. I went home and opened my mailbox and it was a big package. My dad was pulling out the driveway and I stopped him and said I got the scholarship,” she said.
Carlos Pernell was getting his senior pictures taken when he got the news. “My mom came running up with a package. I looked and it was already opened,” he said.
In the package was notification that Pernell and Fletcher had each won the prestigious Gates Millennium Scholarship. The Gates Millennium Scholars Program selects 1,000 students nationwide each year. Students receive a good-through-graduation scholarship to use at any college or university.
This year 21 students in Michigan received the scholarship. Each scholarship is valued at $500,000 per student.
Wayne Memorial High School has had two other students win this scholarship but never two in the same year.
“Carlos and Crystal have an aura about them. It is their spirit. You have to be scholar and have volunteerism and leadership,” Tomlinson said. “ They have both faced extreme obstacles and have done it with such a spirit of decorum that most people of their age don’t have. They were survivalists and good spirited and they have what it takes.”
As excited as Carlos and Crystal are and as proud as the entire Wayne Memorial staff is no one is happier than their parents at the opportunity the Gates Millennium Scholarship is providing their kids.
“The staff is ecstatic,” said Teresa Weaver, Carlos’ counselor. She said Crystal and Carlos are great representatives of Wayne Memorial. “It inspires the other kids a lot.”
“To have the entire issue of finance lifted off is a relief,” Tomlinson said.
But this was not just a free gift. The two had to work hard to win the scholarship. And they started their freshman year.
In their freshman and sophomore years they started to work on “things you want to build in to your high school career that will help,” Tomlinson said.
Both students have been involved in numerous academic and extra curricular activities.
Crystal has a 4.0 GPA and is graduating valedictorian. She has been involved in Upward Bound, JROTC, varsity soccer and volleyball, Robotics and student senate and had Advanced Placement classes in history, English and political science. She has also completed many hours of community service.
“I think my AP classes have helped me be prepared the most because of the work load and with AP you have to manage your time and that is how it is going to be in college,” Crystal said.
Crystal is going to attend University of Michigan and study computer science. She would one day like to become a college professor.
Carlos has a 3.9 GPA and is the varsity basketball captain, Homecoming King, member of the student senate, Upward Bound, Champion, National Honor Society member and a volunteer for Starfish Family Services, Relay for Life and many other community events. He has taken Advanced Placement and direct college classes.
Carlos is going to attend Central Michigan University and pursue a degree in physical therapy. He plans to earn his doctorate degree and one day have his own physical therapy and college athletic training center. He will also play basketball at CMU.
“Today more than ever it is important that our young people get the education they need, and that we need them to have in order to remain competitive in the 21st century. For the 20,000 young men and women who will attend college as Gates Millennium Scholars, the financial support, leadership training, mentoring and academic and social support they receive will enable them to become college graduates and our next generation of leaders,” said Michael L. Lomax, Ph.D., president and CEO, UNCF. “We are grateful for students receiving the support of the Gates Millennium Scholars Program because it is not only an investment in the futures of these extraordinary young people, but also in the country’s economic strength and competitiveness.”
The application is 32 pages and included eight essay questions. Each answer was at least 1,000 words. Carlos and Crystal began filling out the application last year. After making it passed the first round they had to submit their first semester grades and several other documents.
“If you want to apply it is a work in progress and you can’t start your senior year,” Tomlinson said.
While it might seem overwhelming, Carlos and Crystal, who are friends, are happy they went through the process together with the support of Tomlinson. “Mrs. T said you guys are doing it,” Crystal said. They even had conference calls during the many snow days to discuss and edit essay questions.
“It is an inordinate amount of investment of time. You have to really want it. When you have AP courses and are working and playing sports,” Tomlinson said.
“I want to thank Mrs. T and Ms. Pypa because I am quiet and reserved and they showed me they cared about me and helped me whenever I needed it,” she said.
The criteria for keeping the Gates Scholarship include being a full time student and maintaining a 3.3 GPA.
In exchange each year their tuition, room and board, books and transportation will be paid for. They will also get a new laptop computer.
How do they feel
about this opportunity?
“I am ready for the space of growing up,” Carlos said. “I want to thank Mrs. Weaver, Mrs. T and Mr. Kangas who help me fill out the forms. And also my family and my mom.”
“I am very thankful. It hasn’t hit me yet,” Crystal said.
“Those schools are lucky to get Crystal and Carlos. There is a difference between a student and a scholar and they are both absolute scholars.” Tomlinson said
“It also speaks to our school and the district and the opportunity we present to our kids that are life changing.” The Class of 2014 from Wayne Memorial High School has earned over $5 million in scholarships. This is a record amount of scholarships for WMHS seniors.
The Gates Millennium Scholars Program was established in 1999 with the purpose of developing Leaders for America’s Future™, the Gates Millennium Scholars Program is funded by a $1.6 billion grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
The GMS Program provides recipients with leadership development opportunities, mentoring, academic and social support, as well as financial support.