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For Immediate Release (00-67)
Date: December 14, 2000
Contact: Steve Simon, 240-567-7952; e-mail:

Twenty-five Montgomery College Students and Transfers
Named Among Nation's First Gates Millennium Scholars
Community College's Honorees Represent Nearly One-fourth of Maryland’s Total

Rockville, Maryland -- Twenty-five Montgomery College students -- including 15 who are currently enrolled and 10 who transferred this year from the Maryland community college to four-year schools -- were among the nation's first to earn the prestigious distinction of being named Gates Millennium Scholars.

Funded through a 20-year, $1 billion initiative from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Gates Millennium Scholars program aims to reduce the financial barriers to a college education for 20,000 high-achieving, low-income minority students. Scholarships provided through the program cover the remaining costs faced by students after colleges award financial aid packages.

The scholarships benefit African-American, Native American, Hispanic American, and Asian American students who have a minimum grade point average of 3.3, on a 4.0 scale. To be eligible, students must show significant financial need and demonstrate leadership ability through participation in community service, extracurricular activities or other activities.

More than 62,000 students nationwide were nominated for the scholarship last spring; 4,100 students were named Gates Scholars.

According to figures supplied by the program’s administrator, the United Negro College Fund, 108 Gates scholars were named in the state of Maryland. The 25 from Montgomery College -- Maryland's oldest community college, with campuses at Germantown, Rockville, and Takoma Park, Maryland -- comprise 23 percent of the state total.

"We're extremely proud that nearly one in four of all of Maryland's first-ever Gates Millennium Scholars came from Montgomery College," said Dr. Charlene R. Nunley, president of Montgomery College. "I think this achievement speaks volumes about the quality of our academic programs, our faculty and our staff, and particularly, about the determination and character of our wonderful students."

The 25 MC students who have joined the inaugural class of Gates scholars are especially fortunate. The scholarship program has changed the eligibility requirements, and in the second year of operation, only entering freshmen are eligible to be nominated. Montgomery College President Nunley sent letters this week to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and to the United Negro College Fund, urging them to reconsider a change that, she noted, could "effectively eliminate… future success stories," such as those of the transferring Montgomery College students.

Denise Simmons Graves, an associate professor and counselor at Montgomery College's Rockville Campus, coordinated the College's Gates Scholar application process and estimates she spent about 150 hours pouring over the 200 applications submitted to her by MC students—in the space of four short weeks. "The opportunity to receive one of these scholarships is a life-altering event," said Simmons Graves. "This is going to affect our students for the rest of their lives."

Gates Scholar Miriam Del Granado, a dance student at the Rockville Campus, was incredulous when she received her notification letter. "I just could not believe it," she said. "I had to call to make sure it was really happening, and as of today, I still can't believe it."

The Gates Scholar enrolled at Montgomery College's Germantown Campus is Jermaine Sewell of Germantown.

The Gates Scholars enrolled at the Rockville Campus are Ayesha Karim of Montgomery Village, Altamesh Ahmed of Germantown, Vrinda Buchwald of Rockville, Miriam Del Granado of Rockville, and Ji Kang of Silver Spring. Also, Son Le of Burtonsville, YunPeng Li of Rockville, Sendy Salburo of Gaithersburg, Tikina Smith of Silver Spring, and Andy Yu of Silver Spring.

Gates Scholars enrolled at the Takoma Park Campus are Hungquoc Lai of Silver Spring, Kobla Abjasoo of Silver Spring, Kim Nguyen of Silver Spring, and Nadege Thomas of Silver Spring.

Gates Scholars who recently transferred from Montgomery College to four-year schools include: Cynthia Ohene-Ntow of Gaithersburg (University of Maryland College Park), Mobolaji Art-Alade of Germantown (American University), Janora Wade of Rockville (Methodist College), and Tuyet Tran of Silver Spring (University of Maryland University College). Also, Claudia Rice of Germantown (Columbia University), Tuyet Huynh of Silver Spring (Wellesley College), Mariam Harsini of Gaithersburg (University of Maryland College Park), Henry Lopez of Silver Spring (American University), Lan Hoang of Silver Spring (Johns Hopkins University), and Eranga Jayewardene of Olney (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute).

Scholarship amounts vary, based on the need and cost of attending the various institutions. In at least one case, however, that of Claudia Rice -- a top honors student and art history major who transferred to Columbia University this fall -- the recent Montgomery College graduate received a full, $36,000 a year scholarship, which covers tuition, books, fees, and room and board. Rice's full scholarship was the first for a transfer student, from an outside source, in Columbia School of General Studies' long history, according to Columbia officials.

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