Opening Doors for Scholars

photo: Roadell Hickman Sylvester Amponsah and Ellen Essien

Ellen Essien considered Case Western Reserve because of its ties to major hospitals, while Sylvester Amponsah sought its strengths in engineering. Still, they share a key reason behind their decisions to enroll: Both are Gates Millennium Scholars.

The Gates Millennium Scholars Program annually awards 1,000 scholarships to high-achieving, underrepresented students of limited means who plan to study science or engineering. Founded in 1999 with a $1 billion grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the program seeks to develop future leaders.

Essien and Amponsah are the only undergraduate Gates Millennium scholars on campus, but two other scholars, Unique Luna and Michael Xavier Gonzales, are pursuing graduate degrees. Students at Case Western Reserve have received nearly $1 million in funding since the program's inception; the scholarships cover attendance costs that remain after financial aid and other resources are applied.

"The scholarship enabled me to go anywhere," Essien says. "I wanted to stay close to home and thought Case [Western Reserve] was the best option to prepare for the future—hopefully medical school."

Essien was born to Ghanaian parents in Italy and grew up in Gahanna, Ohio. She now studies biology and medical anthropology. "I love this school: the academics, the extracurriculars and Cleveland itself," she says. Amponsah, who was born in Ghana and moved to Columbus when he was 8, plans to seek an electrical engineering degree.

In fourth grade, after learning about the work of inventor and electrical engineer Nikola Tesla, Amponsah started studying engineering at night. He's now intrigued by the possibility of making superconductors work at room temperature. Faculty members across disciplines have challenged and supported him but never waivered on their standards, he says. "The workload can be overwhelming at times, but that's what I signed up for." —Kevin Mayhood


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