Arnold Dimas of Richmond High and Alejandro Hernandez of Middle College High have been named Gates Millennium Scholars, an honor bestowed to just 1,000 high school seniors from across the nation, the West Contra Costa Unified School District (WCCUSD) announced Thursday.
The scholarship, which is in its final year, will cover unmet financial need in college and provide support and mentoring services to encourage excellence in academics and personal development. More than 53,000 students applied for the award, WCCUSD said.
Dimas hopes to one day be a naturopathic doctor and has a passion for urban agriculture, while Hernandez is a mariachi musician who aims to one day create affordable technology for people with disabilities.
“Being named a Gates Millennium Scholar is a testament to the hard work of these young men and their determination to succeed academically,” Board President Randy Enos said in a statement.
Dimas, who attended Ford Elementary and Helms Middle School, plans to study at UCLA, where he wants to major in public health. He had also considered UC Berkeley and Emory University in Atlanta. Currently, he is student body president, part of the Richmond High’s Health Academy, takes dance courses and is involved with the Earth Team and Red Cross.
“This was only something in my imagination,” he said. “I really didn’t expect to make it.”
Hernandez plans to attend UC Berkeley in the fall and major in computer science and music. A self-described “goofball,” he credits teachers for not giving up on him.
“My teachers at Middle College have inspired me to attend college,” Hernandez said in a statement. “They force us to focus on academics and to stay on our game.”
Hernandez, who attended Tara Hills Elementary and Pinole Middle School, plays guitarron in mariachi groups at St. Cornelius and at Cal, with his older sister. He teaches it to younger students and is also forming a choir at church, the district said.
In six years, five WCCUSD students were named Gates Millennium Scholars, including De Anza graduate Jasmine Gill (2015), De Anza graduate Cali Nguyen (2014), Kennedy High grad Kelssie Sontay Perez and Middle College grads Jennifer Ezeokoli and Benjamin Ezeokoli (2011).
The Gates Millennium Scholars program is funded by a $1.6 billion grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Photos courtesy of WCCUSD and Don Gosney of Radio Free Richmond.
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