Graduation season is here and Memphis-Shelby County Schools (MSCS) is celebrating the accomplishments of the Class of 2023. Recently, three exceptional senior students, Rachel Bonner, Kenedi Garrett, and Laniah Bowdery, were selected as 2023 Gates Scholarship recipients. According to its website, the Gates Scholarship is a highly selective, final-dollar amount scholarship awarded by the The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Each of these scholars met the standards required to attain this exclusive achievement. They were chosen from a pool of over 51,000 applicants from across the nation due to their academic achievements, service, and commitment.
“It was a very tedious process,” Hamilton High senior Rachel Bonner said of the application process.
“It started in July of 2022, right after my junior year during the summer. Then in August, coming back as a senior, I had a lot of different types of obstacles,” she said. “There were plenty of times when I was doing this application process where I almost didn't meet the deadlines. You have to write a plethora of essays,” Rachel said. “It was very challenging for me because I had so much going on at the time, but I still pushed through and I still turned in everything and it proved to be good for me.”
Rachel said she’s ecstatic that this award will cover all her expenses not covered by financial aid, including tuition, fees, room, board, books, and transportation. “I was like, ‘Oh my God, this is crazy. I don't have to pay to go to college. I’m gonna go to Florida. ‘Oh my God, this is crazy!’ ”
As for her aspirations for college and beyond, Rachel said she wants to use her creative talents and the lessons she gained from her experiences to help others. “I am a part of (a lot) of organizations that fight against youth homelessness. As someone who had living inequality throughout her entire life, I really want to continue to do projects dealing with that issue.”
The Gates scholar stated her vision for returning and helping fellow Memphians. “I'm going to school to major in theater because I really love performing arts. Memphis has a reputation for creativity. If we show our arts and our passions and talents, we can have a sense of community. I want to build around teaching or assisting in volunteering and programs where you can teach kids how to sing, act and dance. I want to educate and to inspire like I am right now.”
Kenedi Garrett and Laniah Bowdery, seniors at Middle College High School, reflected on their paths to being selected for the Gates Scholarship.
“For me, it has been pretty hectic this year,” Kenedi said. “I take some super difficult classes and I'm involved in a lot of things around school. So, my time is kind of split every which way. But, receiving the scholarship really just showed me that everything I've been doing is for a reason. And it made me proud of myself because all of my hard work paid off.”
Laniah echoed her classmate’s sentiments. “I've been working hard since middle school, focusing on my grades, extracurriculars, making sure that I did things that I was interested in while still focusing on my academic goals. So, definitely knowing that my hard work has paid off, it feels great.”
The entire MSCS family congratulates these three amazing scholars on this momentous achievement.
Watch the video below to hear more from these talented students.