High school seniors getting big boost to college as Gates Millennium Scholars

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Four local high schools students have found out they are receiving one of America’s most prestigious and lucrative college scholarships. Three students from high schools in the Kansas City, Kan., School District and one from the North Kansas City School District will be going to college this fall tuition-free as Gates Millennium Scholars for 2015.

They are Yazmin Sandoval of J.C. Harmon High School, LaTara Demery of Sumner Academy, Van Lal Lian of Wyandotte High school and John Ameryun of North Kansas City High School. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is recognizing them as outstanding minority students and school leaders who also have significant financial need for college.

It’s like winning the lottery for high school students planning to continue on with their education. Tens of thousands of students apply for it each year and just 1,000 are selected. The scholarship can also be extended through graduate and professional school if the students maintain GPA standards and other requirements.

Van Lal Lian came to America as a refugee from Myanmar when he was 13 just a few years ago. He knew no English then but quickly mastered it to become a superb science, technology, engineering and math scholar at Wyandotte High School.

Now the Gates Millennium Scholarship will enable him to go to the University of Kansas in Lawrence this fall.

“I’ll be able to pursue my goals,” said Van, “and that would help me to become an architect so that I can also provide, provide others like the scholarship does for me.”

In spite of a serious health challenge and difficult family financial struggles, LaTara Demery is a top student at Sumner Academy in Kansas City, Kan. She’s a national tournament qualifier in speech and debate. With the Gates Millennium Scholarship, she’ll go to the University of Texas in Austin to study sociology and psychology.

“And I’m not sure where that’s going to lead me,” said LaTara, “but I hope at the end of that I’m able to create something or somewhere where kids can go and feel like they matter and they’re important, give them something to do that keeps them occupied and keeps them on track and sends them where I have been.”

The Gates Millennium Scholars program began in 1999, helping to make college and career dreams come true for extraordinary minority students and school leaders.

FOX 4 News has profiles in the works on LaTara Demery and Van Lal Lian and we will feature them in upcoming reports in our weekly Reaching 4 Excellence segment on outstanding young achievers soon.

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