Three seniors awarded Gates Millennium Scholarship

posted on April 26, 2012

Seniors Renae Cournoyer, Talia Lawrence, and Tiarra Little recently found out that they were chosen to receive 2012 Gates Millennium Scholarships.

These awards, which pay all future college and graduate tuition costs, are the jewel in the crown of available scholarships. The application process is long and arduous, and the selection process is extremely competitive.

As would be expected, the recipients were elated to receive the news, which they found out during last week’s senior retreat. Lawrence recounted, “My mother called just when we arrived at Bear Butte. She said, ‘Welcome to the Gates family – you got it!’ I was crying inside, but on the outside I jumped for joy. I couldn’t believe it…I’d had my heart set on getting it.”

Lawrence plans to attend the University of South Dakota and get her teaching degree. She is undecided whether to return to the reservation and get a teaching job after finishing her master’s degree, or continue in school and pursue a doctorate.

Cournoyer intends to study at Regis University in Denver and major in nursing. Her advice to prospective Gates applicants: “Keep your grade point average up! Use your time wisely, and don’t procrastinate.”

Little will matriculate to Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, where she was recently awarded a full-ride scholarship. There she will join fellow Red Cloud alumna DeAndra McLaughlin ’11.

The Gates Millennium Scholarship program was established in 1999, and was initially funded by a $1 billion grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The award is given to students who exemplify excellence in the classroom and leadership within their own communities. More than 15,000 Gates Scholars’ educations have been funded by the scholarship since the inception of the program.

In total, 57 students from Red Cloud High School have been awarded the Gates Scholarship since 1999. Red Cloud applicants participate in an essay-writing class, are mentored by college students and professors through a program with Creighton University, and are encouraged to attend summer programs designed to teach them more about the scholarship and college application process. Today, our Gates recipients are attending some of the nation’s most prestigious colleges, including Princeton University and Dartmouth College. Many Red Cloud students move on to graduate degree programs after college graduation.

Congratulations to these three students for being recognized for their academic excellence and leadership!