Westmont Magazine A Scholar for the New Millennium
Prestigious Gates Millennium Scholarship Enables Freshman to Attend Westmont
When Dallas Lopez ’08 discovered the Westmont Web site, he knew the college was the right place for him. There was only one problem: he couldn’t afford it.
Just a week later, a counselor convinced the high school senior to attend a meeting about the Gates Millennium Scholar-ships. Funded by Bill Gates, these awards provide $800,000 for ethnic students who plan to graduate from college and earn a doctorate. The grant pays for 10 years of school and all related expenses.
“It’s an amazing scholarship,” Dallas says.‘What a gift from the Lord.”
Dallas was one of the few students from Oregon to receive a 2004 Gates Scholarship. The application process took months and involved nine essay questions, 25 pages of information, recommendations from teachers and community members, and a minimum 3.3 GPA. Recipients must study engineering, education or science.
“I want to be a principal or a school superintendent,” Dallas says. “I have found it hard to articulate what I was learning through standardized testing, and I want to help develop better tests.
“In high school, I was more interested in leadership and social activities than academics,” he adds. “I didn’t see the value of education until my junior year; then I realized it was key and a great joy. I wished I had learned that sooner. I want to get through to kids who don’t see the point of school and get them excited.”
At this point, his goal is to enroll at Harvard and earn a doctorate in education. He will attend a camp in Missouri this summer designed to help ethnic students get into graduate school.
“My first semester was a learning experience,” Dallas says. “I was the freshman representative for my residence hall and I was writing for the student newspaper, running track and giving tours for the admissions office. This semester I’m focusing on my studies and on being a dorm rep. The academics here are challenging.”
“It has been such a blessing to see students live what they believe.”
Dallas is Native American (Pima and Hopi) and Hispanic and has participated in the intercultural program at Westmont. “I was pretty shocked by some students’ comments about Native Americans,” he says. “I hope to bring Native American speakers to campus so students will learn more about them. It’s great for the community to become more educated and aware.
“I came to Westmont because it was a Christian college, but I didn’t know how Christian it would be,” Dallas says. “People do take their beliefs seriously and look out for each other. It has been such a blessing to see students live what they believe. I am meeting so many awesome people — they are changing me.”
Used to a secular school where he had to defend his faith and discount what teachers said, Dallas has found Westmont very different. “It was a shock to come here and have so much Jesus,” he says. “I had to figure out what to do with all of this. I finally realized that even though I go to chapel three times a week I still need my personal time with the Lord. That is essential.”
Dallas doesn’t want to get too comfortable and pushes himself to reach out and get involved. With other students, he is working to raise awareness of the AIDS epidemic in Africa and is planning a chapel on this issue. “The Lord is challenging me to step outside my comfort zone,” he says. “I am trying to do that.”