Chester STEM High School senior Shamyra Woods-Elliott smiled broadly last week as she told of her excitement when she received a “big envelope” in the mail from the Gates Millennium Scholarship Committee.
“All of the others who won the scholarship told me to be on the lookout for a big envelope,” Woods-Elliott said. “So, when I saw the size, I knew I had won.”
Woods-Elliott was surrounded by Chester-Upland School District (CUSD) officials and her parents, Sabrina Woods and James Cunningham, when she proudly proclaimed that she is the fourth CUSD student since 2012 to win the four-year, all-college tuition paid plum that is the Gates Millennium Scholarship.
The other recipients include Kameron Staples in 2013, who attends Brown University; and Justin Platt and Kamri Staples in 2014, who attend Xavier and Cornell universities, respectively.
Each year, the Gates Millennium Scholars program selects 1,000 students across the United States to receive a “good through graduation scholarship” to use at the college or university of their choice.
Funded by a $1 billion grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and administered by the United Negro College Fund, the scholarships are awarded to outstanding minority students who demonstrate academic achievement, community service and leadership. The program hopes to increase the representation of minority groups in the fields of computer science, education, engineering, library science, mathematics, public health and the sciences.
“We celebrate Shamyra’s achievement and applaud her dedication and hard work,” said CUSD Receiver Joe Watkins. “No one succeeds alone. So today, I take pride in everyone working hard, every day, to keep moving Chester Upland in the right direction so our students can show the world they are bright, talented and can compete with the best.”
One of five children, Woods-Elliott is currently taking four advanced placement classes, including physics, calculus, U.S. history, and literature. She is also one of three students vying for class valedictorian.
Woods-Elliott plans to attend Xavier University in New Orleans to study geriatric medicine. She first became interested in the field of gerontology when her grandmother came to live with her family and she helped with her grandmother’s care. Woods-Elliott also volunteers several times a month at a nearby senior center.