Ketchikan: May Brown


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Martina May Brown is a Senior at Ketchikan High School and a 2014 Gates Scholarship winner. Her teacher/mentors are Robert McClory and Natasha O’Brien. Martina was born in the Phillipines and moved to Ketchikan, Alaska when she was 7 years old. Hobbies: Crochet and Fishing. Participated in the Health Occupations Student Organization (HOSA) State CNA Competition, 2012-2013
and Health Fair, 2013-2014. Inducted into National Honor Society, 2013-2014

Press Release: Three Alaska Students Receive Gates Scholarships

KRBD story: Ketchikan student wins full-ride Gates Scholarship

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Robert McClory’s Award Presentation Speech to Martina Brown

Many of you may remember years ago when Bill Gates chartered a cruise ship here. One evening my daughters and I stood below his balcony as local kids shouted for him to give money to those on the docks. Someone began throwing coins. My girls gathered some coins from the man with the Midas Touch. They taped them to their scrapbook hoping they’d blossom like planted seeds.

Years later, Martina Brown became the one who harvested some of that Gates Fortune. I saw her reworking essay after essay, insuring every deadline was met with carefully written stories of her life, dreams and ambitions. For months she nearly lived in Counseling Center, perched at computers making sure her work ethic was reflected in the many 1,000 word essays the Gates Milllennium Scholarship required —just as did nearly 53,000 other students who applied.

Martina had also applied early to many of the Direct Entry BSN programs in the Northwest without having the resources to even visit them. She was accepted to them all and decided upon the University of Portland. It is rated as one of the best small private schools in the Northwest at a cost of $54,000 annually. Her award letter indicated May needed more than $30,000 in loans or outside awards for each of the four years after their scholarships. May worked like someone who knew her life plan depended on this award, and was ready to stay in state without it.

Besides what’s known as the “Million Dollar Scholarship”, she applied for 60 others—each application carefully constructed, attractively packaged and reflective of someone who always does her best.

Martina has received lots of notice as one of only four Alaskans to get this award this year. In my 26 years here, she is the first here that I recall getting this award. The Gates will pay her full Cost of Attendance to any school she attends for up to 10 years.

May plans to earn her Bachelors of Science in Nursing, before pursuing graduate school. She hopes to take advantage of most if not all of the 10 years of free college as well as the leadership training the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation provides Gates Scholars.

Having watched May drag some seniors into the counseling center to construct their own scholarships, I’d say she already has demonstrated the kind of leadership they hope to nurture.  Some of her peers owe her a thanks for her part in the awards that they are receiving tonight.

Several of you have contributed to this award as proofreaders, recommenders, supporters or influences she cited in her application. You all have a stake in this life-changing award and her future.

Please join me now in congratulating Martina May Brown, whose hard work and tenacity helped earned an award that is sure to change the course of her life forever.


2014 Gates Millennium Scholarship Applicant Experience Questionnaire

1.  How did you hear about the Gates?

I first heard about the Gates Millennium Scholarship through Mr. McClory’s scholarship presentation. And then through Ms. O’Brien and Ms. Bowlen who expressed the importance of and my eligibility to the scholarship. Once Mr. McClory said it was a full ride scholarship for ethnically diverse students I knew it was the scholarship for me.

2.  What made you decide to apply?

By the time I was told that I was eligible, I had already started my application and was ready to write the essays. I didn’t realize that only three other students in the school were eligible. I knew I had a good shot. I wanted to prove that even through the struggles of being multi-racial and financially disadvantaged I could still fulfill my dream of getting a college education.

3. How did you feel when you first read through all the details that would be required of you?  Did you start doing the application on your own, or did you have help from a parent(s), teacher(s), counselor(s), friend(s), or did you begin the process totally on your own?

I felt very overwhelmed. I did begin the process of filling out the Gates Millennium application on my own. And I didn’t know where to start. Although Ms. Bowlen and Ms. O’Brien offered to help, I wanted to write the essays myself. I knew if I got my thoughts on paper first I could better clarify any questions about my writing. Ms. Bowlen suggested that I finish the essays by Thanksgiving. But with the holidays approaching and my busy school hours, it was hard to focus on writing. I often found myself at a writer’s block. In order to overcome my writer’s block I would wake up early on the weekends and write until my parents woke up. Thankfully, my parents progressively became supportive of my efforts over the months. They answered all of my questions as best they could. Through this whole process I was actually able to convince my parents to give me a chance at fulfilling my life-long dream.

4. Why did you undertake such a huge effort? Where did you start?

I undertook the huge effort of applying for the Gates Millennium because I have longed for an opportunity to go to college free of charge and receive a Bachelors of Science in Nursing. I was inspired by my parent’s lack of higher education and the growing demand for nurses. Although the odds are against me for achieving my dream, my disadvantaged background will fuel my ambition. I began by reviewing the application. I made a note of the information I needed and filled out my application to the best of my abilities. From there I wrote down topics that applied to each of my essays and let myself become inspired.

5.  What was your favorite essay question? Why? What was your least favorite essay question? Why?

My favorite essay was number eight. I enjoyed writing about my family’s journey in the new world. This essay made me realize the power of family. Despite our struggles we still find it easy to laugh and work together. My least favorite essay was number seven. I didn’t like having to remember all the times I was discriminated against. But I don’t regret the topic I chose. While writing about my experience with discrimination I realized my strength. Getting a job helped my family. The money I was able to bring in kept us optimistic about the future.

6. Please state in detail, including their name(s), the help you received from your teacher(s), counselor(s) and mentors.

I am thankful for all of the help I was able to receive. Mr. McClory gave me great advice about what to add into my essays. Ms. O’Brien was very efficient in proof-reading my essays. Ms. Bowlen gave me encouragement. All three mentors regularly checked on my application status and pushed me to do more than just my best. I’m thankful the most of my parents, but especially my mother. Throughout the months she was very cooperative. She decided to break tradition and support my choices. My father was there every step of the way answering all of my questions and adding more information. Of course, I have Tad Bartimus and Dean Wariner to thank. They’ve worked long and hard to help Gates Eligible students. I am honored to have had their help.

7. Do you think you could have received more help? Why do you think you did not get it? How can this situation be changed to give more help to future Gates applicants?

I could have received more help. But I’m glad that my teachers and counselors gave me the chance to write freely. I was able to explore my past. I found out things in me I never knew I had. For example, I’m very patient and steadfast. For next year’s Gates Eligible students, the Ketchikan High School should have a designated essay writing session after school. Students should work one-on-one with their mentors.

8. Did you do your best? Please explain in detail what, why and how you managed to do your best with all your other commitments.

It was hard balancing all of my activities, homework, and friends. But I know I did my best. I gave myself time within my day to work on my essays. In my Endeavour to finish my essays I have had to be excused from classes and skip meetings. I also had other responsibilities. I had a responsibility to my family. After a long and tiring day, I finally came up with a schedule that allowed me time within my day to recover and spend time with others.

9. Was all the hard work worth the effort? If so, why? If not, why not?

My hard work was worth the effort. My essays for the Gates Millennium have actually benefited me in other ways. The essays not only help me find my strengths, it helped me realize how much I valued the people in my life. The essay responses resembled many of the questions asked on other scholarships. I was able to save myself some time and re-use my essays.

10. Do you recommend other students like yourself apply for the Gates? What advice would you give future applicants? Would you be willing to help the juniors get started this year?

I highly recommend the Gates Millennium scholarship. Although it’s a lot of work, it will all be worth it in the end. The essay questions wanted more than just answers, the questions asked for deeper thoughts. These essays can be used for many other scholarships as well. The Gates Millennium scholarship brought me closer to my family. My goals for the future are clearer. And I’m thankful for everyone who has helped me complete my application. My advice for future applicants is to stay determined. Make sure they dedicate a couple of hours a day to working on the scholarship. And I would gladly help next year’s seniors. My experience has been beneficial, and if I can help change the life of a student dreaming of a future education I will.