The Gates Millennium Scholarship represents much more than just a scholarship. It allows its recipients to chase their wildest academic and scholastic dreams, no matter if those dreams lead them to the most prestigious universities in America, England or elsewhere.
And so it will be for this year’s crop of recipients — including two from Philadelphia — who last Tuesday were recognized by Mayor Michael Nutter in the mayor’s City Hall Reception Room for their hard work and dedication to education and service.
Jamil Caldwell, a senior in both the Mathematics, Civics and Sciences Charter School and the Freedom Schools’ alternative scholastic programming model, said he was “shocked and overwhelmed that my hard work has been rewarded,” through a statement released by Communities in Schools of Philadelphia, one of the facilitators of the Freedom School system. “Philadelphia Freedom Schools prepared me for the academic rigor and persistence that I needed when applying for the scholarship, as well as maintaining the grades and activities necessary to qualify.”
Caldwell joins fellow students Taleeah Allen-Wright, Roebuck Dredden, Shahrin Islam, Chyheim Jackson-Burgess, Marisa Miro, Sadiyah Sabree, Khalil Taylor, Bach Tong, Phong Vo, Yjaden Wood and Yun Zheng as the awardees hailing from Pennsylvanian school districts — the GMS went to only 1,000 seniors nationwide.
“Education continues to be the best pathway to opportunity, and we believe that college costs should not be an obstacle along that path,” said Jim Larimore, deputy director for student success at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “That’s why scholarships like the Gates Millennium Scholars Program and others are so important. Scholarships provide students who have the will to get a postsecondary education with a way to get one, thereby securing a better future for themselves, their families and their communities.”
That Caldwell earned such a prestigious scholarship that will completely pay for his studies at Temple or at Barcelona’s European University — or any other school on the planet — reflects well on both MCSCS and Philadelphia Freedom Schools; the PFS program also produced other GMS awardees, as Shaneese Thompson received the scholarship in 2010 and Ewinka Romulus in 2011.
“We are immensely proud that for the past three years we have had three Gates Millennium Scholarship scholars within the program,” said Philadelphia Freedom Schools Director Bunmi Samuel. “I think [these scholarships] reflect well on the program, the support we give our students and knowing they have adults who want to see them do well.”
Philadelphia Freedom Schools promotes a unique academic model which focuses on community service and cultural reinforcement; Communities in Schools of Philadelphia serves as its lead agency.
“We have formal chapters in 15 high schools, but members in 63 schools that meet during the week,” Samuel said. “They also come out to our ‘Wednesday Academy’ at Benjamin Franklin High School and social actions on Saturday.
“But for Jamil, primarily, he’s still really shocked. It is amazing to see happen.”