You know, The kids who get a few C’s here but manage to balance it with a few A’s and B’s there. The Top 10, 15, or 20 percent. The students who earned the respect of family members as the one who “cared and excelled” academically but refuted with a “You should see the kids at school.” You know, the pupils who almost always go unnoticed at award ceremonies. The middle kids. The mediocre ones.
It did not take long for me to think that I didn’t have what it takes. Little did I know.
I remember one day sitting in my elementary math class and lying in front of me was a simple division worksheet. “How hard can this be?” It’s just multiplication but backwards right?” And sitting next to me were my two closest childhood friends. They were the ‘Cream of the Crop’ as my Gifted program teacher would say. I remember admiring the excitement on their faces as they came closer and closer to finishing the worksheet. As I looked down at my own paper, embarrassment and confusion quickly washed over me.
It didn’t end there. Throughout elementary school, my closest friends seemed to dominate over all subjects. To me they were 10 year old geniuses! With some of the best grades out of the entire school, they went home with all the awards. Don’t get me wrong, I was extremely proud of them. I just couldn’t help but feel a sort of inferiority around them. I wanted to make my Mom proud with awards too! I wanted to make straight A’s too! I had to be content with certificates and happy I didn’t have any failing grades..
A little cub in the midst of roaring tigers. Mediocre in the midst of greatness. Little did I know.
In high school one of my close friends approached me while in Chemistry and asked if I would be applying for the Gates scholarship. I had no clue what it was so I researched it right there on the school’s laptop. I looked over the website and was immediately intrigued. You see, I was worried about how I would be able to pay for school because I knew that UCF was my top choice but had no current scholarships and I already knew that my family would not be able to afford it. I was already debating if I should stay in the area for community college. I began to look over the application process and noticed that I had to do EIGHT WHOLE ESSAYS. Senioritis had already kicked in full force & it was already hard doing assignments for my classes. There was NO way that I would be able to do the essays. AND (if i’m not mistaken) the deadline was less than a week away! As I looked over the essay topics I noticed that I could easily write about them. They were more personal than formal and I actually thought it would be fun to do the writing on them. I began working on the first essay that instant. The bell rang and I told him that I think I’d apply.
It didn’t take long for doubt to creep in. The more research I did, the more I began to doubt the entire thing. When I tell you that the people who got this scholarship are AWESOME, I mean AWESOME. The minimum G.P.A requirement was a 3.3 (unweighted) and I had a 3.3! The people I came across that already had the scholarship had to have at least a 3.7. There were people who got straight As and I felt so unqualified to even be thinking about applying. Not only did they have the grades but they were brilliant and were getting accepted and attending prestigious Ivy Leagues and just doing the thang! Not only in school and academically but in their communities! I was very discouraged and wrestled for a day or two about whether or not I should apply. Meanwhile the clock was tick, tock, ticking and the deadline was fast approaching.
I was at choir rehearsal on Monday night, the week of the Thursday deadline, and I just could not shake the thought about applying for the scholarship. I asked my friend about whether or not I should apply and she was like “Yeah I think you should.” “But those 8 essays tho?!” “Yes, I think you should apply.” “Nah, I’m not gonna apply.” Lol, I went home that night and did not even give the application a second thought. I went to bed that night planning on taking the school bus to school the next day around 5:30 am. God had other plans.
I woke up the next day and it was around 6:30-7:00 a.m! I overslept!! I missed my bus and I had no other way of transportation to school! As I think back on it now, I can’t remember if my alarm rang or not and my mom was already gone for her work day. I would be staying home from school that day. Almost immediately, I thought about the scholarship and my heart was racing and I started to get anxious. “Was I really supposed to be applying for this scholarship?” “Should I stay home all day and get started on the essays?” I texted about 2-3 of my very close friends about what I should do and the one who texted back was already texting me multi-paragraphs of encouragement of why I should stay and do the essays LOL.
I decided to stay. I grabbed my laptop and sat down the entire morning and afternoon working on all essays the best I could. Ideas were flowing and I found myself writing about my love for reading as a child, my experiences in school (an excerpt from one of my essays is above.), God, and my future goals. I did not even make a meal to eat as I was so focused and deep down I felt an urgency to finish this application. In between essays I was researching the scholarship and tips on what to write about, etc. My mom came home and of course started getting on my back about why I didn’t go to school lol. I didn’t tell her why I didn’t go to school but just took a break (I was exhausted) and later on went to Tuesday night prayer with my laptop in hand. I prayed about this scholarship and asked for God’s glory to shine through my application. I had a leader help me look over my essays and she did. Proofread and did some necessary editing. I left encouraged to finish.
I now only had Wednesday as a full day to go to teachers and get my essays done, revised, looked over, and edited. My English teacher helped me SO MUCH and one of my friends who I knew to be a GREAT writer helped me get started on an essay I was stuck on. I felt like I was doing some serious soul-searching to write these essays lol. I remember sitting in the spill out during lunch listening to He’s Able by Deitrick Haddon trusting God to do the impossible and knowing that if I were to get the scholarship it couldn’t have been by my own qualifications.
I still felt as if I needed more time to polish my application and the next day(Thursday) I found out that they had extended the deadline till the next day which was Friday! I was so astonished and I still believe that this deadline was extended for me lol. I so needed it! The extra day gave me time to get my nominator and recommender situated and everything else in between. Although that day it was due I felt like a chicken running around with its head off my friends and nominator/recommender HELPED ME SO MUCH to calm my nerves and what not. Side note: It is extremely IMPORTANT that you are surrounded by the RIGHT people. Your company can make or break you seriously and I’m extremely grateful I had a circle of friends that helped me, gave me a shoulder to cry on, prayed for and encouraged me that week.
By Friday afternoon the application was done and submitted. With a big sigh of relief I left it in God’s hands and I knew that I had done my very best. His will was gonna be done no matter what and honestly I would have felt content no matter the results because just the application process alone had taught me so much. Seriously.
Weeks went by and I found out I was a semi-finalist and was moving on to the next round. I was so shocked by the email and I felt so undeserving of being a finalist. I did not deserve it at all. As you can see, I was unqualified across the board. Academically speaking and definitely spiritually speaking. I had friends I knew that were more dedicated to school than I was, had higher G.P.As and did not get it. I don’t say that pridefully. They got scholarships that I didn’t get and vice versa. God’s will was fulfilled differently.
Through the waiting period, I was believing that if God had made me a semi-finalist than He’d come ALL the way through and provide this scholarship for me.
One day, I stayed home from school lol and was at my grandma’s house talking to my aunt. She was sitting across from me and I looked down at the dining room table and noticed a huge envelope from the Gates Millennium Scholars program. My heart was racing and I immediately stood up and asked her “When did that get there?!?!” It was as if the packet came from thin air!! She said that it was always there. My hands and voice were shaking!!! I began to delicately open the envelope, SIKE lol. I did a little bit of ripping and the first thing I saw was CONGRATULATIONS! I screamed and my grandma and aunt were both like what is it?! I told them something around ONLY THE BEST SCHOLARSHIP IN THE WORLD. I ran outsiddeeeee and began to give thanks to God. I called everyone who had helped me and told them the news. It was all so surreal. How could I have received such a prestigious honor? All the odds were against me but little did I know that it was the perfect opportunity for God to get all the glory. Every time I tell someone that I am a Gates Scholar I would be doing a great disservice to not tell them the story behind it. So here it is.
Out of 57,000 people who applied. 1,000 got chosen. I was one.