TUBA CITY, Ariz. - Established in 1999 by Bill and Melinda Gates, the Gates Millenium Scholarship awards 1,000 ethnic academic high achievers each year. In its initial year, the Gates and his wife started the fund with $1 billion. The The application process is rigorous. Students must have a 3.3 GPA and also show leadership and community contributions through an essay narrative. The scholarship also requires an endorsement by a high achiever in the community.
Four Tuba City High School 2013 graduates made the final cut-Stephanie Geneeha, Kenard Dillon, Emerald Byakeddy and Jaren Numkena.
Gates, the founder of Microsoft, is the youngest self-made billionaire in history. He felt that the increasing diversity of society reminded him that all American citizens must have access to higher education.
Gates felt that for American and world societies to continue to thrive in the new millenium, it was society's responsibility to prepare potential leaders from groups who have historically and traditionally been denied access to higher education because of a lack of monetary support and academic opportunities.
Gates and his wife felt they could make a meaningful contribution to changing this for high achieving minority students.
The Gates Millenium Scholarship awards scholarships to African Americans, American Indian-Alaska Natives, Asian-Pacific Islanders and Hispanic American students. The scholarship, which averages about $12,000 per year, per student, also provides leadership programs and academic mentoring support throughout the lifetime of the scholarship recipients' academic career.
Stephanie Geneeha, daughter of Rosemary and Garry Geneeha of Tuba City, is attending Arizona State University this fall, majoring in biology in preparation for a dental career. Geneeha comes from a long line of college graduates and was also the salutatorian of her graduating class. Geneeha also won a Navajo Nation Chief Manuelito scholarship award for academic excellence.
Kenard Dillon II, son of Maxine Sandoval and Kenard O. Dillon of Tuba City, will attend Harvard University this coming year. He has chosen to study history but is extremely interested in a political career. Dillon plans to go on to law school after he completes undergraduate work at Harvard. Dillon would eventually like to run for president of the United States.
Emerald Byakeddy, daughter of Anna and Emerson Biakeddy, will attend Arizona State University (ASU) in Tempe. She will study biology and has won several other academic awards this year, including the Chief Manuelito award, ASU Scholarship and the President Obama Scholarship. Her final career plans are to become an obstetrician. Several members of Byakeddy's family have attended college before her, including her parents, grandparents and her siblings. Her brother has already graduated from college.
Jaren Numkena was unavailable for an interview but also is a winner of the Chief Manuelito Scholarship award along with the Gates Millenium award.