Gates scholarships worth the hard work for local students

Jun. 05, 2013 @ 09:15 PM

That grin on Reginald Shaw’s face stretched as long as his daughter Charity’s legs over those hurdles that she was clearing on the way to a PAC-6 championship.

Charity Shaw, who just graduated from Southern School of Engineering, recently emerged from the conference championships with first-place titles in the 100-meter hurdles and the triple jump.

But that’s not why her daddy was cheesing so hard.

“I’m smiling because I don’t have to pay one coin for my kid to go to college,” Reginald Shaw said. “It’s like hitting the lottery.”

Reginald Shaw said he played the recent $600 million Powerball lottery. He didn’t hit, but he wasn’t sweating it, because his daughter already had clutched another sort of winning ticket – a Gates Millennium Scholars Program scholarship.

“I’ve hit the lottery. I was just trying to hit it again,” Reginald Shaw said. “My kid’s education - I don’t have to sweat or cry or wonder where my kid is going to get money from and go to college. And she can go anywhere.”

Charity Shaw is going to Clemson University in South Carolina, where she’ll continue with track, knowing that it was the quick-firing synapses in her head, not her fast feet, that got her there.

“I take pride in it,” Charity Shaw said. “It’s a great accomplishment to get athletics scholarships, too. But I think receiving that (Gates Millennium) scholarship, it just says a lot, because it took a lot of work to get there.”

Reginald Shaw, 50 and a former football player at N.C. A&T State University in Greensboro, said he's seen student-athletes get hurt and have their sports scholarships yanked, snatching their hopes for college degrees in the process. His daughter's Gates Millennium scholarship takes away that potential headache.

“Headache? This is all kinds of pain gone,” Reginald Shaw said.

At least 54,000 people across the country applied for this round of Gates Millennium scholarships. Of the 1,000 scholarships awarded this time around, 24 of the beneficiaries are North Carolinians, and Charity Shaw is one of just three recipients from Durham.

Hillside High School senior Mariah Reese will use her Gates Millennium scholarship to obtain an undergraduate degree from Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. She's got her mind on biomedical engineering and at some point wants to go to law school. It takes all of that in order to become a patent attorney, her father Willie Reese said.

Willie Reese said he didn't lose any sleep over how he'd pay for his daughter's college education. As a matter of fact, he said he and his wife, Wanda, weren't worried about how they'd finance college for any of their children.

“We told all our kids up front that we don't pay for college,” Willie Reese said.

In other words, there's scholarship money out there for those who really want to go to college and are willing to work for it, Willie Reese explained.

“We're not a rich family,” Willie Reese said. “We just work for a living.”

Willie Reese, a building contractor, and his wife, who works in banking, already have sent three of their children to college.

“All of them got scholarships,” Willie Reese said.

Of course, Willie Reese said, Mariah's college costs would have been covered even without the Gates Millennium scholarship. She accumulated $1.8 million in scholarship offers, including full rides to schools such as Duke University, N.C. Central University, N.C. A&T and Washington and Lee University in Virginia, he said.

Children need to understand the responsibility that they have for their futures, and it's the job of parents to place the appropriate burden in that regard on their sons and daughters, Willie Reese said.

“A child is nothing but a miniature adult,” Willie Reese said. “It's how we program our kids.”

Gates Millennium scholarships do not fund any professional degrees, including medical, law, business and divinity schools, program spokeswoman Christina Wong Poy said. Scholars are funded for undergraduate degrees in any discipline, and they may request funding for graduate studies in computer science, education, engineering, library science, mathematics, public health, physical science and life science, she said.

Riverside senior Marcus Bullock will use his Gates Millennium money to potentially study engineering at either UNC-Charlotte, N.C. A&T or N.C. State. Wherever he goes, the bill already has been covered.

“I tell you, boy, that’s a doggone sigh of relief that I can’t even explain,” Bullock's father, Mark, said. “We didn’t plan for it. It’s one of those things where you're reaching for the stars and  hoping to reach the sky.”

A year ago, Marcus Bullock began working nightly and on weekends on those formidable essays required of scholarship applicants. All the while, he was staying on top of his studies and sticking with his volunteer service.

Marcus Bullock had hoop dreams, thinking basketball might take him to college, Mark Bullock said. .

“He wasn’t blessed with tall parents,” Mark Bullock said, taking more pride in his son's beautiful mind that helped secure a Gates scholarship. “That makes it feel even better.”

Both Mariah Reese and Marcus Bullock ran track for their high schools but, like Charity Shaw, were real all-stars in the classroom, something Reginald Shaw said deserves way more attention than it gets.

Reginald Shaw said schools around here have jerseys and whatnot hanging around honoring the fine athletes who walked those halls. “You throw the football, and jump shots and jump a hurdle and a pitcher throws a 90-mile-an-hour fast ball, why? Because that’s entertaining you. Where is the academic acknowledgement to push kids academically?”