Sarely Licona will attend University of Rochester on a full-ride scholarship, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Exhausted from a trip to visit University of Rochester in New York, Ms. Licona couldn’t believe her eyes when she spotted the envelope that would change her life. “As soon as I got into my room and started unpacking my luggage, I saw the big white envelope and cried,” she remembers. “I hadn’t even opened it yet, and I was already crying. I hugged my mom, and then my sister came in and read the letter, and she cried, too. I felt so overjoyed. I still can’t believe I’m a Gates Millennium Scholar.”
Ms. Licona, a senior at Westwood High School, 945 W Rio Salado Pkwy, is one of 1,000 students nationwide to win the 2015 Gates Millennium Scholarship. The program is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. She has received a full-ride scholarship to the accredited university or college of her choice. Prior to receiving the scholarship, Ms. Licona was undecided between Northern Arizona University and The University of Rochester. When Ms. Licona learned she was a Gates Millennium Scholar, the choice became clear. “I realized that I couldn’t give up this opportunity to go to New York and study nursing in one of the country’s best nursing schools,” she said. “I know that without the Gates Millennium Scholarship, I probably would not have been able to attend University of Rochester.”
Ms. Licona plans to study in the school’s nurse practitioner program. “I’ve always had the desire to work with people and have a positive influence in their lives, which is what led me to choose nursing,” she says. “I specifically plan to go into the field of oncology. I want to be the person to motivate my patients to keep fighting and be the support and love they need in a moment of their lives when they might not feel at their strongest.”
Ms. Licona attended Franklin West Elementary School, 1753 E 8th Ave, and Summit Academy, 1560 W Summit Pl, Chandler, before coming to Westwood, where she is in the International Baccalaureate program. “Sarely is a bright student, talented athlete and exceptional leader,” says Westwood IB coordinator Nina Johnston. “She has earned more than 100 hours of service. Much of that has focused on working with Emerson students, mentoring and helping them see education as a pathway to success.”
As a Gates Millennium scholar, Ms. Licona is provided leadership training, mentoring, and academic and social support. She may also request additional funding for a graduate degree program in fields such as education, public health or science.
Ms. Licona will remember her days as a Mesa Public Schools student fondly. “I’ve always felt supported and motivated to be the best student and person I could be,” she shares. “Being part of the International Baccalaureate program at Westwood High School has definitely pushed me to work hard every day of my high school career, and it’s paid off. I don’t think being at any other school would have gotten me to the place I am today. I am forever grateful for my amazing support system at Westwood. They continue to praise and congratulate me for all my accomplishments, and I feel so loved and cared for.”
Editor’s Note: Heidi Hurst is an employee of Mesa Public Schools.
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