Three valley students earn Gates Millennium scholarships

Rancho High School graduate Chorkin Chau is eager to start college classes and begin her professional career.

Chau plans to study molecular and cellular biology with an emphasis in neurobiology and become a neuroradiologist.

Chau is not after money, nor is she concerned with helping the masses, though she might. She is doing it for one person, her mom, who has medical issues related to the brain. Chau, worried about her mom, did not want the illness disclosed.

“We’ve been to a lot of doctors,” she said. “They don’t really take care of her. I know if I’m her doctor, I can do a better job. … I just want to be able to help her.”

Chau will have one less worry as she will not have to pay for college. She was one of three students in Nevada out of 1,000 in the country to be named Gates Millennium Scholars. Her college costs — tuition, books, housing and other fees — will be covered through graduation.

The other two students were Kevin Prasad, also of Rancho, 1900 E. Searles Ave., and Loren Ayala of Advanced Technologies Academy, 2501 Vegas Drive.

Chau plans to attend the University of California, Berkeley, and has already moved to the area to live with her older sister, Channchi, who graduated from Berkeley. Six years ago, Channchi also was a Gates Millennium Scholar.

The program, started in 1999, is funded by a $1 billion grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and targets minority and low-income students.

Chau said she has always had an interest in the brain and has wanted to help her mom for a long time. After seeing her sister receive the Gates scholarship, Chau was preparing for the application before she started high school.

Nearly 54,000 students applied for the program, according to the Gates Foundation. Each student had to write eight essays as part of the application process.

“It’s an accumulation of everything you do in the four years of high school,” Chau said. “I was getting involved (in clubs), getting in leadership positions. … Technically, it takes four years to apply.”

Chau was in Rancho’s emergency medical technician program, a member of the Key Club and Health Occupations Students of America. She also created two clubs, including a gardening club to grow vegetables for the poor and a volunteerism club.

At Advanced Technologies Academy, Ayala said she was “practically in every club.” As a member of A-Tech Ambassadors, she was a guide at the school whenever guests were on campus. She also tutored at middle schools and hospitals and helped recruit eighth-graders to apply to her school.

Ayala plans to attend Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., and study chemical engineering. After graduating, she wants to work in wastewater, a field that “doesn’t sound that exciting,” she said, but one “that could help every city in the United States.”

“I’m grateful it covers me until I decide to stop studying,” Ayala said. “A lot of people get scholarships for their bachelor’s degree but not for postgraduate (studies). I won’t ever have to worry about that.”

Thanks to her mischievous mother, Ayala was initially fooled into thinking she was not accepted into the Gates program.

Students were notified by mail with a large packet. Ayala got home late from school one day and her mom told her the packet arrived but that she did not get accepted.

“She couldn’t keep a straight face,” Ayala said. “Then she gave me a big hug.”

Ayala immediately let her friends know.

“Being the teenager I am, I took a picture (of the packet) and posted it on Facebook,” she said.

For more information about the Gates Millennium Scholars program, visit or call 877-690-4677.

Contact View education reporter Jeff Mosier at or 702-224-5524.

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