Chevak: Mary Pingayak


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Mary Pingayak is a Senior at Chevak High School and a 2014 Gates Scholarship winner. Her mentor is Jeanne Campbell. Mary’s hobbies include babysitting, visiting friends, shopping online, keeping her grades up, trying new things, and traveling.

Anchorage Daily News story: Chevak students win ‘million-dollar’ Gates scholarships

KYUK story: Two Chevak Students Win Gates Millennium Scholarships

Press Release: Three Alaska Students Receive Gates Scholarships

2014 Gates Millennium Scholarship Applicant Experience Questionnaire

1.  How did you hear about the Gates?

I heard about the Gates Millennium Scholarship when I went to the Talk Story, Write Story workshop in Fairbanks for the Upward Bound College Prep Academy. When I first heard of it, I immediately knew I would apply. I was so excited when I heard the scholarship paid for everything. It made me feel better when my mentors Tad and Dean (the two who told me about the Gates) told me they were more than willing to help me with the essays on the application. I was ecstatic about the application and I had no doubt I would apply. With their help, how could I not submit the essay? They were one of the big reasons I chose to apply.

2.  What made you decide to apply?

The fact that I had my friends and families support and the encouragement of Tad and Dean, I was so encouraged to apply. Tad and Dean had helped me with a number of essays already during our Talk Story, Write Story workshop, that I had no doubt they would help me with unconditional care. I told my mom and dad about the scholarship, they insisted that I apply. I enjoy writing and when I heard the eight essays were a part of the application, I wasn’t worried because Tad and Dean pushed me to write so many essays in one week. They expect the best from all of their students and I knew they would push me until I pressed the submit button on the Gates. My mom and dad were encouraging me to keep writing and get it done.

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?

Tad and Dean had already given me a thorough description about what I would need to do for the scholarship so then when I looked at the application I was already informed. I wasn’t surprised at all. I just needed to fill it in. I had the help of my teacher, Jeanne Campbell and my classmate Kyla Fermoyle. I showed my mom the application and she told me to get my awards from the computer cabinet to use for the application. She also showed me my dads tax returns and that’s how she helped me. When I was writing essays at home I asked her questions and she would answer them. With help not only at school but at home as well gave me the motivation to fill in the application.

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

When I heard about the Gates, I knew I wanted it. I had also learned that my friend from another village was a recipient of the scholarship so I thought, “If he could do it, so can I!” I knew I had the support, I knew I had what it takes to get this scholarship, I just had to prove it. The Gates is definitely the biggest scholarship I know of and I want it. Filling out the application and writing all the essays for it was a lot of work. I was so motivated from early July until mid-October. I started feeling like a drag. That is why I am so thankful that I had the help of Tad and Dean. They pushed me out of their love to get me through it all.

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

My favorite question was the question about leadership out of school that I have experienced. I wrote about being a leader as an older sister at home. It made me realize how special I am to have a caring family like mine. It brought out the realization of what I’m made of and what I can do. It made me happy to tell my story and made me feel happy about myself. I didn’t like the treated unfairly question as much as the other ones. It brought back a lot of painful memories that I thought I would leave behind and wouldn’t bother me again. Writing about it helped me heal those wounds I covered with the hazy thought of ignorance. I thought that if I left it alone it wouldn’t bother my, but actually writing about it helped me heal those hurt feelings. It was hard to write about being bullied that I cried. I couldn’t stop the tears, but that’s what helped me put more real emotions into my story. Thanks to Tad and Dean for telling me, “Be specific, just write; put all your feelings into it and don’t be scared to express yourself. You have a special story, you just need to realize it!”

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

The biggest help I received was from Tad and Dean. With their excellent writing skills and the endless love and care they have for me, I know this is what they were made for. They treated me like I was their own child. I cannot even begin to explain how much they care. I am extremely thankful for the help and motivation they instilled into me. The words of encouragement they had for since day one I will never forget. “You are the best of the best!” We bonded the day we met; with only one week of being with them in the classroom we were all shedding tears on the last day of class. That is definitely the fastest I have ever become attached to anyone besides my parents. I always think it’s because of the love they shared to us. I am forever grateful for these two who freely give their love, care, and advice. My mom and dad, Norman and Clotilda Pingayak, helped me by encouraging me and praying with me for this scholarship. They never stopped me from working on the application and they always gave me advice and tips on how I can write my essays, since they were there my whole life; they know my story. My teacher Jeanne Campbell was there and my classmate who applied with me Kyla, were there to push me to keep writing and edit and rewrite and write more! They had me going, calling me to get to class on time, and answered my grammatical questions I had. I am very thankful to Jeanne for opening her home to me to work on the essays. She has been there for me since fifth grade. She encourages me and tells me what I can do for my future. Much love to her.

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 had so much help through the whole application process. There is no way I could have possibly received more help. Tad, Dean and I were skyping twice a week and sending emails daily. I had my teacher’s help Monday through Friday at school and weekends at home. My mom and dad were constantly encouraging and were happy I had Tad and Dean to work with. My classmate and I would make sure we were on task and finishing our essays.

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.

The first few months of working on the essays I was extremely motivated. I had three essays done already. At first writing the essays was a blast. After the few months I started to slow down. I was happy to finish the application. I had student council meetings  to go to and I needed to help sponsor activities during the weekends and I had church twice a week. I did most of my work in class and after school to finish my work. I needed to make time to work on the essays.

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

The hard work was definitely worth it. The relief I felt after pressing the submit button was epic. I was so happy and in shock for sure. Months of hard work was finally done and all the work put into it made the final step so amazing. It was like I finished the longest journey, but with the help of my mentors, teachers and family. I know for a fact I couldn’t have done it on my own. This scholarship takes a lot of work but the prize of the outcome is so big it’s worth all the effort. It acknowledges the best of the best; I’m one of them.

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 would recommend this scholarship to everyone including my little brothers and sisters. I would tell them to keep their GPA up and do their work, pay attention in classes, don’t slack off at all, and stay strong in the process. This scholarship takes the most effort for a senior in high school. I know if any student has hope for their future, and if they strive to do something, they would, without any questions, apply for this scholarship. I already have told my classmates about the scholarship, but when they heard about the eight essays, they didn’t want to apply. If I’m still here in Chevak I would help them a lot. I can still help them through the internet, but I would be busy with my college classes. I would mostly recommend this scholarship to them. I encourage my sister to prepare for this scholarship because she’ll be in high school next August. I see the same potential I have in her. She is also an overachiever, but I will tell her not to slack off at all during her classes. I want to keep her strongly motivated to keep her GPA high, even higher than mine.