Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Gates Millennium Scholar

An International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma program student at Westchester Academy for International Studies who wants to be a women’s physician is one of just 10 Houston students named a Class of 2013 Gates Millennium Scholar. Bushra Bangash, a native of Pakistan who came to Spring Branch as a seventh-grader, is one of only 1,000 students from across the United States selected for this prestigious and selective scholarship.

 The Gates Millennium Scholars (GMS) Program, directed by the United Negro College Fund (UNCF), issues “good-through-graduation” scholarships for students to pursue degrees in any undergraduate major at the college or university of the student’s choice. Established in 1999, the GMS Program is made possible through a $1.6 billion grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. This year, 122 Texas students were selected for the scholarships. Bushra set this top scholarship as a graduation goal five years ago.

 “When I came to America in seventh grade, I knew that Bill Gates was the richest person in the world, but I did not know about the Gates Millennium Scholarship until my cousin Sundus told me. I made this my goal. I said to myself that to graduate high school, I would need this scholarship,” Bushra says. Her goal was no easy hill climb.

Then a seventh-grader, Bushra, joined her two brothers and two sisters, and parents, in Houston after leaving Dera Ismail Khan, a city of 32,000 people located in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province of Pakistan, about 200 miles west of Lahore. The city and province have been sites of religious conflict, including Taliban attacks. Bushra arrived in Houston with a language barrier, too. “My English was horrible,” she confesses. She speaks now in impeccable, quick-paced English sentences. Her grades, at first, were average or above, but she kept working on her English and improving grades. Pakistani schools focused on rote memorization.

Here, she learned to apply key concepts and ideas, rather than recall simple facts. “In seventh and eighth grade, my grades were not all A’s. But from 10th grade on, except for one 89 in biology, all of my grades were A’s,” she says proudly. Having won a Gates Millennium Scholars award, Bushra’s next planned stop will be the University of Texas at Austin. She plans to major in biology despite that single B grade, and then later apply to a prized medical school. She loves dissecting animals. Bushra would like to be a practicing gynecologist, she says, in part so that she could find a way to return to Pakistan annually and to help other women.

“There are few OB/GYNs (obstetrics and gynecology) or gynecologists in Pakistan. I want to deliver babies, and do other stuff. I see myself as an American-Pakistani. I see myself in the future as being in a place where I will go back to Pakistan and be able to help others,” she says. This Westchester Academy senior, of course, is already taking steps to achieve her next top goal. She has volunteered almost 400 hours at Memorial Hermann at Memorial City Hospital. She has picked out her medical school, too: Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, Md. “It’s one of the top medical schools in the world. I always want to aim for the top. I want to be the best that I can possibly be,” Bushra says. The Gates Millennium Scholars Program has a similar goal.

“Today more than ever, it is important that our young people get the education they need, and that we need them to have, in order to remain competitive in the 21st century,” states Michael Lomax, president and chief executive officer of UNCF. “For the 20,000 young men and women who will attend college as Gates Millennium Scholars, the financial support, leadership training, mentoring and academic and social support they receive will enable them to become college graduates and our next generation of leaders.” For her counselor, Karren Sims, the faculty-chosen student award that Bushra received twice speaks volumes about her dedication to self improvement.

 “I feel that Bushra’s biggest accomplishment has been the fact that she was nominated and voted for the Alton Frailey Award for her 10th and 11th grade years. This is an award for students who may not be the most gifted academically, but they work hard enough to change the situation to one of success,” Sims states. “Bushra is a model student for this award. It is a great honor to be nominated; it is an even greater honor to be chosen by the faculty two years in a row to receive the award.”

Bushra’s accomplishments at Westchester Academy for International Studies:

• International Baccalaureate Diploma Program graduate
• Memorial Hermann Memorial City Hospital volunteer (358 hours)
• President, Muslim Students Association
• Vice President, Science National Honors Society
• Member and Public Relations Officer, National Honors Society (3 Years)
• Spanish & Math Honors, National Honors Society
• Secretary, Medical Club
• Executive Board, Model United Nations
• Alton Frailey Award, 10th and 11th Grades


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