Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Spring Woods High grad earns Gates prize

A leader in the Spring Woods High Class of 2014 who believes deeply in the power of education to change the entire planet for the better will enter George Washington University (GWU) this fall as a Gates Millennium Scholar.

The Gates Millennium Scholars (GMS) Program award will likely change Maria Palomares Carranco’s life. Like a great gift, the scholarship comes wrapped with possibilities that include good-through-graduation, full financial support, and even an option for ongoing funding on certain master’s level degree programs and pathways.

Maria was strolling with a high school friend through the history-rich Georgetown neighborhood in Washington, D.C., during an April visit to GWU – her top college choice – when her mom texted.
She had a letter from the Gates Millennium Scholars program! What did it say?

Moments earlier, Maria was thinking that GWU wasn’t for her – too expensive. “I was in shock,” she says recalling her reaction to the award. “I said to myself, ‘I will go to my dream school!’ It really all came together in a moment, and it was awesome,” she remembers.

She plans to double major at GWU in history and international relations. A teacher who aired a video documenting the plight of children in South Sudan really helped the scholarship winner focus on her future path.

“I decided in my junior year that I want to fight for education internationally,” she says. “I want to make it a reality to work in education internationally, even if that’s just teaching. We need teachers more than we need people who write or talk about education and education topics.”

As a Gates Scholar, Maria can focus on earning university degrees for a long time.

This scholarship includes renewable awards for all undergraduates, and the GMS Program supports graduate school funding in areas where Hispanic-Americans and other student groups are under-represented, such as the sciences and medicine.

Funded in 1999 through an initial $1 billion grant by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the scholarships have been awarded to more than 16,000 students. Maria was one of about 1,000 students who received the scholarship this spring.

After attending Ser Ninos Academy, a dual language school in Houston, Maria, who is an only child, moved with her mother to Spring Branch ISD. She joined Edgewood Elementary as a third-grade student, and graduated from the school.

Later, she attended and graduated from Cornerstone Academy, and then settled in for four years at Spring Woods High School.

At Spring Woods, she chose all Advanced Placement (AP) classes for her senior year – English literature, economics, government, statistics and biology. She took all AP classes from her sophomore to senior year, in fact.

“I’m not the smartest kid, but I am the person who wants to do something harder. I’m sure that other people would say I’m an over-achiever,” she says.

She was inducted into National Honor Society her junior year. In addition to her studies, Maria was part of the award-winning speech and debate program at Spring Woods High for three years, and she was chosen two times as a Texas Forensic Association qualifier.

On Student Council, she served as secretary, and she also served on the high school’s T-2-4 Committee. She volunteered throughout summers as a Vacation Bible School volunteer at Houston’s Second Baptist Church.

“Education has been a great thing for me, a great way to learn about culture, and a great way to learn how to do things a better way,” Maria says. “Education can help all of us learn how to fix the world, and make it better for future generations.”

Maria credits mom, Luz Rydzy, her teachers at Edgewood Elementary School and two Spring Woods High teachers in particular – AP History teacher Lora Clay and Student Council advisor Kaleb Underwood – as key adults on her path to George Washington University and future success.
SBISD salutes Maria Palomares Carranco on her Gates Scholarship.


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