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Saint Mary’s student earns Gates scholarship

Rebecca O'Neil | Friday, September 28, 2012

Saint Mary’s freshman Clarisa Medina stands at 4-foot-11 but her short stature does not hinder her plans for a big future.

 “There’s not a doubt in my mind that I’m going to be successful,” she said.

 In May 2012, Medina found out she was accepted to become a Gates Millennium Scholar. Of the 26,000 high school seniors who applied for the distinguished scholarship, she was one of the lucky 1,000.

 “Students apply annually from all U.S. territories and states.” Medina said. “The program is more prestigious than any university’s admission process, including Harvard.”

 Medina applied online in December 2011 and wrote nine essays discussing community service, activities she engaged in during her weekends and summers and the type of courses she had taken to prepare herself for college.

 “We also had to write about things that have happened in our lives that we had to overcome to get to the point where we want to be, she said. “There are three rounds and in the final round they determine if you can become a Gates Scholar based off of socio-economic need. If you are chosen you get up to 10 years of education at any university of our choice.”

 Medina is the first Gates Millennium Scholar to enroll at Saint Mary’s College. The financial aid office had never heard of the scholarship before Medina.  

Medina was first introduced to Saint Mary’s through her sister and current sophomore, Cecily Medina.

 “She loved it so much here and she strongly encouraged me to come,” Medina said.  “When I came to visit I liked the classroom size, it was very appealing to me. I feel as if I have so many opportunities here. I get to double major and go abroad. It’s the ideal place to master the basics and go on to a higher level of education, perhaps a PhD.”

 Medina, a double major in global studies and political science intends to minor in justice education and Spanish as well as earn her MBA from Notre Dame during her last year of college.
 Medina finds another advantage of Saint Mary’s is her ability to participate in two different sports.

“I run cross country and play softball here,” she said. “It’s a great stress reliever for me and my team provides me with an additional support system.”

The second of eight children, Medina relies on her sports family to help her transition from her home environment.

“It is really difficult coming from a Hispanic family because we are very close knit and dependent on each other,” she said. “It’s so loud at home and here everything has been pretty quiet. I know I just have to remind myself to sacrificed that for a reason and that reason was to get an education and to have an opportunity that my parents never had.”

 “I am very proud of [Clarisa],” Cecily Medina said. “When she won the scholarship it wasn’t just her winning, it was our entire family winning.”

 Despite engaging in an enriched athletic and academic life, Medina has not forgotten her background in service.

“I plan to open a camp here that I created back home,” Medina said. “It’s called Run the World and I believe that it is the reason why I got the Gates Scholarship.”

Contact Rebecca O’Neil at roneil01@saintmarys.edu