Scotlandville Magnet student overcomes obstacles to be named Gates Millennium Scholar

Scotlandville Magnet student overcomes obstacles to be named Gates Millennium Scholar

POSTED: Tuesday, May 15, 2012 - 2:30pm

UPDATED: Tuesday, May 15, 2012 - 2:34pm

Shaela Nelson of Scotlandville Magnet High School is one of only nine seniors in the state of Louisiana to be named a 2012 Gates Millennium Scholar – and she has overcome much to accomplish this honor.

The Gates Millennium Scholars (GMS) Program – one of 400 scholarships administered by the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) – recently announced the selection of this year’s cohort of 1,000 new student scholars nationally. The GMS Program will award the Class of 2012 Gates Millennium Scholars good-through-graduation scholarships, which can be used to pursue degrees in any undergraduate major at the accredited college or university of the recipients’ choice.

A full scholarship is a welcome prize to Nelson, who has beaten many obstacles to reach this pinnacle in her educational career. The 17-year-old student lost both of her parents, the late Sharlotte Nelson and the late Charlie Nelson, at a young age, and was raised for many years by her grandmother. When her grandmother died two years ago, her sister, Sierra Nelson, became her guardian.

Despite those challenges, Nelson has a grade point average of 4.0, is ranked 11th in a class of 263, scored 21 on the ACT and takes Advance Placement courses (English IV, Honors and Chemistry). She plans on majoring in Civil Engineering at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, where she has been accepted.

At Scotlandville Magnet High School, Nelson is the class president for the Student Government Association, a member of the National Society of Black Engineers and Team Spirit (a school anti-drug program), a student ambassador for her school’s Magnet Engineering Program and a mentor with Girls for Engineering, Math and Science. In addition, she is in the Youth Ministry at Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church.

“I am very excited and grateful for this chance to pursue my education and my dreams for a career,” Nelson said. “All of my hard work has paid off, and I will continue to work just as hard in college and beyond.”

This year’s cohort of national Scholars represents 47 states, the District of Columbia, the Marshall Islands and four U.S. territories: Federated States of Micronesia, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The student winners will be attending 348 colleges and universities. Current Gates Scholars attend a total of 723 colleges and universities across the country.

Established in 1999 with the goal of developing Leaders for America’s Future™, the UNCF Gates Millennium Scholars Program is funded by a $1.6-billion grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. To date, more than 16,000 students have received GMS scholarships, attending more than 1,500 schools, including Ivy League colleges, flagship state universities, UNCF member institutions and other minority serving institutions. The GMS Program provides recipients with leadership development opportunities, mentoring, academic and social support as well as financial support.

For more information about GMS and a list of the Class of 2012 Gates Millennium Scholars, visit

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