From inside the house, Mary Tatlock could hear her father screaming at the mailbox. “Mary! Mary!”
He ran into the house nearly hysterical, frightening Mary and her mother. But then they caught sight of the envelope in his hand.
A large envelope. They all knew what that meant.
The sender, Gates Millennium Scholars Program. Mary and her mother joined in the screaming.
“We were just jumping up and down,” David Tatlock said last week.
Jumping and crying.
“I cry about everything,” Mary Tatlock said. “It’s annoying to even myself.”
But the 17-year-old senior at Las Vegas Academy, a public school for the arts, had cause this time. There are scholarships, and then there’s the Gates Millennium scholarship.
The scholarship will pay tuition and fees to any college in the country for recipients. It also covers the cost of food, housing, transportation and just about every expense an undergraduate student faces.
And it doesn’t end when Mary Tatlock and Nevada’s three other 2014 winners earn their bachelor’s degrees. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation – which annually awards scholarships to 1,000 minority students below an income limit – also will pay for graduate school in computer science, education, engineering, library science, mathematics, public health or science. That covers Mary Tatlock’s field of study, intercultural studies with a concentration on international development, making the scholarship easily worth six figures.
As a Mojave High School teacher, David Tatlock has been consumed for years with one fear: How to afford college for his two daughters as his wife attends school to become a teacher.
“It has been one of the biggest things on my mind, them being able to not just do a certain thing, but their thing,” said Tatlock. His fear melted away when his daughter was selected for the Gates Millennium. “It’s like winning the lottery, this scholarship.”
The only problem is that Mary Tatlock didn’t receive the envelope until Good Friday, long after most schools closed their application windows. Luckily, she applied to her dream school, Biola University in La Mirada, California, which costs $33,000 in tuition and about $9,000 in annual room and board.
Miguel Gonzalez, another Gates Millennium recipient, wasn’t so lucky. The Chaparral High School senior didn’t apply to either of his dream schools — the University of Washington or University of California, Los Angeles — and didn’t plan on pursuing his desire to become a neurologist or cardiologist.
“When I was a young kid and teachers would ask what you want to be when you grow up, everyone always said unrealistic things: astronaut, athlete. Not me. Doctor. Always doctor,” said Gonzalez, who years later thought his dream was unrealistic for a different reason, money.
He put all that out of his mind and applied to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas on a marching band scholarship having made top honors and all-state in high school.
But then the A student was standing inside a local taco stand applying for work, hoping the ringing of his phone was a call from In-N-Out Burger. He answered to hear his crying mother say he’d received the big envelope.
“I was hoping it would be In-N-Out, but –” Gonzalez said Monday. “It’s barely starting to sink in. I can do anything.”
He plans to be a doctor, transferring to the University of Washington after two years, and has a blank check to make that happen. Gonzalez estimates he’ll receive $350,000 in assistance from the scholarship.
Gonzalez’s selection means Chaparral High School, near U.S. Highway 95 and Flamingo Road, is Clark County’s only traditional high school to have a Gates Millennium Scholar in 2014. Nevada’s other winners are Erika Carrera of Veterans Tribute Career and Technical Academy, near Rancho and Vegas drives, and Jose Solorio of Reno’s Hug High School.
Gonzalez aims to be the first-generation college graduate for his family. And he’s Chaparral’s sole valedictorian of 2014.
“My parents are proud,” he said, adding his parents always emphasized the importance of education. His mother is studying to be a nurse. “They knew they made mistakes, and didn’t want me to do the same.”
Mary Tatlock received a similar imperative from her parents, remembering them telling her to read out loud every day. But her parents were brutally honest with her as early as elementary school.
“Very early on, we said we can’t send them to college, only help,” said Mary’s mother, Edith Tatlock of what she told her daughters. But both her girls are on full rides. Mary’s older sister, Hannah Tatlock, earned a tennis scholarship to Austin Peay State University in Tennessee. “I think they got a hold of it.”
Mary Tatlock stayed home during the family’s Christmas vacation to apply for a dozen scholarships, namely Gates Millennium requiring a number of essays, letters of recommendation and more.
“I just worked my butt off,” she said.
Gonzalez did likewise, applying to 30 scholarships. But no one ever counts on the Gates Millennium.
“Now that I have it, I’ve definitely changed my plans,” he said. “Changed them back.”