Delano Seniors Awarded Prestigious Gates Millennium Scholarship

Wednesday May 22, 2024

In a remarkable achievement, two high school seniors in the Delano Joint Union High School District have been awarded the prestigious Gates Millennium Scholarship, securing a full-ride to the college of their choice. This scholarship, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, covers the entire cost of their undergraduate education and opens doors to further graduate studies if they choose to pursue them.

Ian Hernandez from Delano High School and Klarissa Martinez from Cesar E. Chavez High School are two of more than 50,000 students who applied for the scholarship this year. Just over 700 scholarships were awarded across the United States.

The Gates Millennium Scholars Program, established in 1999, aims to promote diversity in higher education by providing minority students with educational opportunities they otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford.

Ian Hernandez and Klarissa Martinez are shining examples of this mission. Hernandez, reflecting on his high school experience, expressed gratitude for the support he received.

“The teachers you know, they care a lot about you,” Hernandez said. “There’s a lot of people that help you step by step on how to apply for these scholarships.”

Martinez echoed the sentiment. 

“They were really supportive, they lifted up my confidence a lot,” she said. “They wrote me really good [recommendation] letters and were just supportive throughout the whole process.”

Hernandez plans to attend UCLA and pursue both business and engineering. He is passionate about addressing housing issues and aims to develop AI systems to reduce construction costs.

“Housing is a big issue in California,” he said. “That’s always been my passion. I want to reduce the cost of housing.”

Ian Hernandez & Delano High Principal Shondra Walker.

“Before, I was stressed about how I was going to afford it, especially because my mom’s low income, so it’s a big weight off my chest.”

— Ian Hernandez

Inspired by her parents and teachers, Martinez aspires to become a doctor and return to Kern County to serve her community. She plans to major in biological sciences at UC Irvine.

“I really want to come back to Kern County, that’s my main goal,” she said. “I would like to be able to contribute to giving them quality health care.”

The significance of this scholarship cannot be overstated. It removes the financial burden from Hernandez and Martinez, allowing them to focus on their education and future careers.

“It’s such a relief,” Martinez said. “When I was thinking about college, I was thinking about finances. Now that I have it, the sky’s the limit, I can do anything.”

Both students emphasized the importance of applying for scholarships and seeking out opportunities, the earlier the better.

“There’s going to be someone who sees your potential, and they’re going to want to invest in you. But you have to put yourself out there and you have to try,” Martinez said.

Hernandez says not very many people know about or take advantage of the many scholarship opportunities that are available. He explained that the Gates Millennium Scholarship is just one of several he’s applied for. He said lack of funding should not hold you back from pursuing higher education and that everyone can go to college if they are consistent and work hard.

Shondra Walker, principal of Delano High School, highlighted the support systems in place for students to pursue higher education, especially in a rural area such as Delano where resources are limited.

“This district is very committed to making sure that we use our resources to benefit students. We really try to make sure that they have everything that they need,” Walker said. “We have a phenomenal teaching staff and classified staff that are here to support these kids.”

Justin Derrick Cesar E. Chavez High School principal, praised Martinez’s hard work, dedication and humility.

“Klarissa is more the type that really focuses on what her responsibilities are as a student and isn’t really looking for a lot of gratitude or anybody to kind of brag about her,” he said.  “It’s an awesome accomplishment, it’s extremely competitive and just to know Klarissa got it, it’s really great.”

The Gates Millennium Scholarship is more than just a financial award, it’s an investment in the future leaders of America. Hernandez and Martinez’s success stories serve as an inspiration to their peers, showing that with determination and support, anything is possible.

“We’re just very proud of all of our students,” Walker said. “It’s just amazing to see how much they’ve accomplished.”

By Katie Avery

By Katie Avery

Katie Avery joined the Kern County Superintendent of Schools in 2023 as a Communications Specialist. As a former journalist and marketing professional, her passions include media and storytelling. Before joining KCSOS, Avery worked for various local TV stations as well as the health care industry.