After completing the application process to be a Gates Millennium Scholar (GMS), Monmouth College freshman Khadijah Alfred of Chicago is ready for any assignment her professors send her way.
Alfred was one of 47 students in Illinois selected to be a Gates Scholar and one of 1,000 recipients nationwide. Established in 1999 with the goal of developing “Leaders for America’s Future,” the United Negro College Fund Gates Millennium Scholars Program is funded by a $1.6 billion grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
“It was a pretty intense application,” said Alfred, who is believed to be Monmouth’s first Gates Scholar. “I wrote eight essays for it, and there were a lot of short-answer questions. It took hours and hours and hours to get through it. The day it was due was my birthday, but I kept working on it until I got done at 10 o’clock that night. I also had the flu. I wanted to just give up, but it paid off in the long run.”
That, in essence, was one of the major lessons of a leadership conference that Alfred recently attended in the Washington, D.C., area for Gates Scholars from the eastern half of the U.S.
“There were lots of keynote speakers, and they told us their life stories,” said Alfred, who reported that Bill Gates wasn’t one of the speakers, although he has attended such conferences in the past. “They taught us to never give up, and they also wanted us to begin really thinking about how we could give back.”
Alfred already knows the meaning of service and selfless giving, as she was actively involved in several philanthropic projects at Chicago’s Manley Career Academy High School.
“One big thing that I was a part of was our annual blood drive,” she said. “We had to get a certain amount of donors, and there was a lot of behind-the-scenes work. Another big project was our annual dinner for the homeless. We sold candy during the lunch hour and after school to help raise funds, and we were able to serve 300 homeless people in December, right before Christmas. We also had a coat drive for them, and we were able to provide them with a lot of hats and scarves, too. After the dinner, they stayed for music and dancing.”
Alfred included her many service projects on her application, as that was a major determining factor for the scholarship committee. So was academics, and Alfred passed that requirement with flying colors, earning a 4.02 GPA on a 4.0 scale. She was class valedictorian and had leadership roles in National Honor Society, the Principal’s Advisory Board and the pompom squad.
Her application essays and her service and academic credentials are why the scholarship committee chose Alfred. But how did Alfred arrive at her decision to choose Monmouth?
“My guidance counselor made sure we knew about the ACM schools,” said Alfred of the Associated Colleges of the Midwest, of which Monmouth is a charter member. “I did some research about Monmouth, and I liked the fact that it was in Illinois and wasn’t too far from home. I knew I would meet new people in a new environment, and I also liked that it was a small school. I wanted my professors to know my name.”
Alfred is majoring in biology. Her plan on matriculation day was to become a pediatrician. She said she might rethink that goal, but she definitely wants to do “something in the medical field.”
The GMS program provides recipients with leadership development opportunities, mentoring, academic and social support as well as financial support. The program is known for its recipients’ high graduation rates – a six-year rate of 90 percent (45 percent higher than the national graduation rates for all students) that is comparable to the rates for students from high-income families.
More information about GMS and a list of the Class of 2012 Gates Millennium Scholars is available at www.gmsp.org