September 1, 2000

Gates Scholarships Awarded to Two North County Residents

Two North County women are among approximately 4,000 students of minority backgrounds who will receive Gates Millennium Scholarships from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The scholarships are the first wave of a program that will provide $1 billion to minority students from low-income families during the next 20 years.

Diana Ortiz, 23 of Valley Center, will receive $6,000 for the 2000-2001 academic year. Ortiz is a social science major at California State University San Marcos who plans to teach on a Native American reservation when she completes her education.

Monica Ceseña, 19 of Cardiff, will receive $8,250 for the academic year. Ceseña will transfer from Cal State San Marcos to the University of Southern California to continue her studies in history. She plans to become a college professor.

Both students were nominated for the Gates Scholarships while enrolled at Cal State San Marcos. Ortiz was a protégé of history professor Alyssa Sepinwall in a faculty-student mentoring program. Ceseña was a student enrolled in some of Sepinwall's classes. Sepinwall alerted them to the scholarship program, encouraged them to gather the necessary information and apply, and wrote letters of recommendation.

The Gates Foundation requires that students demonstrate leadership skills and involvement in their communities, be accepted into or enrolled full-time in an accredited four-year undergraduate program or graduate programs in specific subjects, and have a cumulative high school or college grade point average of at least 3.3. The Foundation says the typical recipient this year is between 18 and 29, and has a GPA of between 3.7 and 3.8. The group includes 1,364 new freshmen, 2542 continuing undergraduates and 200 graduate students. Starting next year, only high school seniors will be eligible to apply.

According to information on the Gates Foundation web site, The Gates Millennium Scholars Program will provide $50 million in scholarship funds each year. The program will provide support for four years of undergraduate work and for graduate students pursuing advanced degrees in math, science, engineering, education or library science. The scholarships will provide funding to supplement financial need not covered by other funding sources.

Ortiz says the Gates money will be very helpful. "I could have done it without them, but this makes it a lot easier," she said. She credits Sepinwall with giving her some direction. "I think I'd be a little bit lost," she says. "She helped put me on the right path."

For Ceseña, the Gates support means the difference between many student loans and just one. "That will help later, when it comes time to pay the loans off," she said. The Gates money will also allow her to skip working as a student assistant during each semester, leaving her more time for her studies. Ceseña notes that even though she wasn't in a mentor-student program with Professor Sepinwall, "she was always available and really helpful... She's one of the best professors I've ever had."

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