2 Philly students receive Gates scholarship

May 29, 2009 4:54:52 AM PDT
Years of hitting the books are paying off for two Philadelphia high school seniors as they're getting full college scholarships worth up to half a million dollars each from Bill Gates.Patrick Osuagwu and Jichang Ni were congratulated by Mayor Michael Nutter.

The 18-year-old seniors from West Philadelphia received mail saying they will receive Gates Millennium Scholarships valued at $500,000.

"As soon as I opened the box I was like, a burden has been lifted off of both my parents' shoulders. It was sort of like the greatest present I could receive at this moment at my life," Patrick said.

Their college costs will be covered including tuition, lodging, food, transportation, books, supplies, and everything through the doctorate level if they pursue PhDs.

Microsoft founder Bill Gates and his wife began the scholarship ten years ago to give academic opportunities for outstanding minority students with significant financial need. Jichang and Patrick, both sports-loving, A students, are the only ones in Philadelphia to earn the unparalleled academic support.

"For me it's opportunities and opportunities are, obviously, very hard to come by these days. This is a huge opportunity for all of us because my family is not financially well off," Jichang said.

Jichang's family moved to the US from China when he was 7. His parents own a restaurant. Patrick's parents, a SEPTA supervisor and registered nurse are from Nigeria. Without the scholarships, college would have been a struggle. Patrick will go to Temple and Jichang to Drexel. Both are considering becoming doctors and changing the world.

"I want to research cancer. I want to find a cure for cancer," Patrick said.

Both of them went to St. Francis Desales grade school and West Catholic High.

In fact, six Gates scholars have come from West Catholic High School in the last 4 years.

"There's noting that can stop them. The sky's the limit. It truly is," West Philadelphia High Presdient Tim Ahem said.

For these two, the sky is just a beginning.

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