Seward: Malia Acovak

“Writing the Gates essays made me step back and take a hard look at my life. I pictured where I wanted to be in 10 years and I thought out the steps I have to take to achieve my goals. Going through the Gates process, I had a better idea of the scholar I want to be, the person I want to become, and what I need to accomplish to succeed in getting there.”

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Malia Acovak is a Senior at Seward High School and a 2015 Gates Scholarship Winner. Her mentor is Jennifer Swander.

Reflection on Being a 2015 Gates Millennium Scholarship Winner

I was heading to a Calculus study group but decided to quickly check the mail beforehand. I saw that the envelope inside was from Gates, I violently grabbed the package out of the mailbox, ripping it in the process. I tore into it, and once I saw the CONGRATULATIONS, I threw it on the floor and started screaming. I am thankful that the stranger in the post office was not too freaked out by my episode of pure joy and astonishment.

The shaking and crying did not stop for a while afterwards. Thank you to all who comforted me, from the days I spent frustrated with the writing process, to the day I received the good news. Your support is what helped me stay sane.

Seward is a little port town of roughly three thousand people. Many of my favorite memories from high school are times I volunteered with friends at community events. I am so thankful that this little town offers many opportunities for young adults to explore future careers.

I would like to thank my teachers for engaging me in my schooling. You taught me to love learning and to always strive for more. Thank you to my teachers: Mrs. Cronin for the Positive Math Attitude, Mrs. Brasher for Science Fridays, Martha for everything, because she does everything. Thank you Mr. Hinders for the Big Board of Knowledge, Mr.Hemstock for Espanol, and Mrs. Swander and Mr. Marshall for teaching me to improve my writing. I couldn’t have accomplished this without any of you.

Thank you to my family and friends for their constant support and encouragement over the years. You all enriched my life and helped me become the person I am today. My love for education began with my dad. He helped me with every homework assignment in middle school. Working with him every day after school, made me the engaged and dedicated student I am today. Thank you to my Aunty Linda for being all knowing and for looking over my essays. Sherelle, Josephine, Laura, Robin, Emily, I have such wonderful memories with you, thank you for the good times and the laughter. Naknekpuk, I love you.

Mrs. Swander, thank you so much for gracefully guiding me through the GMS process. The “Future Gates Scholar” binder you gave me the very first day, proves you believed in me, even then. Your words of encouragement are what got me through the stressful times. Thank you for the red vines, chocolate, and the endless hours spent reading and revising my essays. Going through this process with you has immensely improved my writing. You are the only person who knows how awful my writing was before and how much it has improved since. I could not have come this far without your help and support. Cheers to us for looking FAB and “getting’er done”.

To those who looked over my essays: my family, my friends, my teachers, THANK YOU! Thank you for taking time and investing in my future. Words cannot express the gratitude I feel towards you. Thank you to everyone in my life. You all have inspired me in so many different ways and for that I am grateful.

I am so happy to be a part of the Gates community. We are a family, complete with such motivated scholars. I know I can look to them for questions and guidance, not just about college, but about life. I’m thankful to be connected to people from all over the country who share a common goal: to make the world a better place.

I cannot believe that the six months of hard work paid off. I cannot express how much this scholarship means to my family and me. I am thankful for the chance to tell my story and through that process, get a better understanding of who I am. I am grateful for the opportunity and excited to make positive change to myself, my community, and the world!

2015 Reflection on Gates Millennium Scholarship Application Experience

I was first introduced to this scholarship by my English teacher, Mrs. Swander, my junior year. I was running around campus busily organizing the end of the year picnic when she approached me. I didn’t think too much about it, I needed 150 hot dogs to be grilled and served to my entire high school in an hour.

Back at school in the fall, I gave Mrs. Swander my full attention. We made a binder full of calendars and scholarship information as we talked about the scholarship. “Eight essays?” I thought, “Psh, I have this in the bag!” Little did I know it would not be that easy. For the next six months, it was a never-ending cycle of writing and rewriting.

Those of you who will do it in the future, BE PREPARED: there are definitely many late nights and tears, but I promise you, it will be worth it.

I decided to take on this huge challenge because I needed a way to pay for college. Senior year has really opened my eyes to the harsh reality of how much college costs. I want to be a doctor so the thought of paying for the extra six years of schooling is terrifying. I understand that college and medical school will be challenging, but my determination and dedication will propel me to succeed. I know I will be successful whether or not I get the Gates Millennium Scholarship. But it would be awesome to get a scholarship that pays everything for me to be a doctor.

It is really easy to get lost and overwhelmed senior year. My family, friends, and teachers were like sea gulls, constantly pecking at my brain, wanting to know what my life plans were. I felt like I needed a set course for the next 40 years o f my life.

Writing the Gates essays made me step back and take a hard look at my life. Writing the third essay about being treated unfairly was hard. I had no idea that I had so many pent-up emotions. I sat staring at my computer screen, cheeks soaked with tears, trying to get the jumbled thoughts and emotions in my head onto the screen and into the Gates.

These essays also made me seriously look into the future — look at all my options and decide what I really want out of life. I pictured where I wanted to be in 10 years and I thought out the steps I have to take to achieve my goals.  Going through the Gates process, I had a better idea of the scholar I want to be, the person I want to become, and what I need to accomplish to succeed in getting there.

I do not know anyone kinder and more willing to help others then Mrs. Swander. I am so thankful for the time and effort she has given me. I would not have been successful without her constant support. I can never thank her enough for all that she’s done for me.

It’s easy to look at the odds and be discouraged. Believe me, I’ve been there. Even though I may not get this scholarship, I have learned many valuable lessons going through this process. My writing has improved immensely. I have a clearer understanding of myself. I better understand my determination, my abilities, and my goals. I have accomplished this huge scholarship application and have eight amazing essays to prove it.

I am very proud of my accomplishment.

My suggestion to future applicants is to stay focused and determined! Classes and extra-curricular activities will take up a lot of time, but you must find the time to write the essays. They are just as important! I encourage you future applicants (and potential winners!) to write the Gates essays because they offer a great opportunity to get to know yourself, and you would not want to miss it!

Also, how could you resist the possibility of getting your college 100% paid for?