Reyna Suarez shares her experience as a scholar with the new scholars at the Gates Millennium Scholars Leadership Development Conference.
I’ve been asked to share my experience as a Gates Millennium Scholar. I really wasn’t sure where to start or how to express myself in a few paragraphs. I guess it all started 7 years ago, when my teacher in high school encouraged me to apply for the Gates Millennium Scholarship. The GMS program is a $1 billion initiative of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. It is the world’s largest private scholarship effort in the world; awards are given to minority students who demonstrate academic excellence, community service and strong leadership skills.
It never crossed my mind that I was going to get this scholarship because of the high number of applicants that they get each year. I will never forget the feeling of excitement as I opened the letter, which stated that I was one of the recipients of the GMS Scholarship. A few months ago, the organizer of the Leadership Development Conference for the new Gates Millennium scholars, emailed me to ask me if I wanted to be part of their event. I had been part of the same conference back in 2002 and I was thrilled to share my experience with the new scholars. The conference took place in Los Angeles, and I was able to connect with the GMS community, network with other alumni and scholar mentors, engage in discussions about career development, academic, and personal and be part of a workshop designed to empower college freshmen.
In addition, we were able to hear Bill Gates Sr. and John Legends share their wisdom about education and leadership. I spent four days with the GMS community and I left the conference with a feeling of empowerment of the many things I can do to help out in my community. I am currently a mentor to two young GMS scholars, who are both freshmen in college. It has been a great experience so far and I am proud to be part of such a great program!