Two seniors at Toledo parochial high schools -- one at St. Francis de Sales, the other at Central Catholic -- have received four-year, full-ride Gates Millennium Scholarships, two of 1,000 such grants awarded nationwide by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to outstanding students from low-income families in certain ethnic minorities underrepresented in higher education.
Derrick Mitchell El II, a member of the first international baccalaureate class to graduate from Central Catholic, is on the honor roll and is a member of the National Honor Society, student government, the Spiritual Commission, the Chinese Club, and the Stay Tobacco Free Athlete Mentoring program.
The central Toledo resident was a member of Central's rowing team for two years and has volunteered at the school's annual dinner auction and as a tour guide at its Discovery Days and open house. He plays CYO basketball, is active in St. Martin de Porres Church, and works in concessions and hospitality at the Toledo Zoo.
Last summer, he completed a six-week internship in the University of Toledo chemistry department, where he worked in a laboratory with a doctoral student. He plans a collegiate major in international business and pre-law.
He said winning the Gates Millennium Scholarship will allow him to attend his preferred college, Ohio State University. "I would have made ends meet somehow" without the scholarship, which pays for all tuition, fees, course materials, and housing expenses, he said, "but maybe not at the college of my choice."
"It's still hard to fathom how, out of 23,000 kids, I was chosen," he said, recalling that when he opened the big white envelope that arrived last month in the mail, he shouted so loudly that his aunt, elsewhere in the house, asked if he had been injured.
Keon Pearson, also of Toledo, is the first African-American valedictorian in St. Francis de Sales' 55-year history and was recently chosen by the Toledo Community Foundation Inc. as the Buckeye CableSystem BCSN Student of the Year. He has received a Harvard Faculty Scholarship to attend Harvard University, is one of 12 recipients of the Ron Brown Scholarship, and is a National Merit Finalist.
A three-year recipient of the Timothy Peterson Memorial Scholarship for Music at St. Francis, he has played the trumpet in the school's pep, concert, and marching bands and is also a member of its men's chorus. He has been president of the Junior State of America, National Honor Society chapter, and the African-American club at St. Francis. He is a member of the mock trial team, captain of the Quiz Bowl team, and an accomplished chess player.
He has chronicled his experiences as a high school senior in the Sojourner's Truth newspaper in Toledo. He plans to major in molecular biology at Harvard and pursue a career as a cardio-thoracic surgeon.
He said his other scholarships will pay significantly toward the cost of his undergraduate education, but the Gates Millennium Scholarship will cover campus living expenses they don't.
"It is quite an honor to be chosen for this," he said, adding, "Bill Gates has it all figured out" and has the desire and resources "to do some true human philanthropy."
Derrick agreed, saying, "I think it's amazing what Bill Gates is doing" and noting that besides the scholarship money, the Gates Millennium program includes support, mentoring, and networking elements for recipients.