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A first step toward a better future

Photo by Christopher Huang.

Speaking to several hundred high-school seniors from Boston public schools, third-year behavioral neuroscience major Angel Han shared tips and advice on how she earned a Gates Millennium Scholarship, which pays for up to a decade’s worth of college expenses for students of color.

“There are so many students who apply for this scholarship that you have to stand out and be creative,” said Han, whose essay highlighted her community service and leadership work. “I used my essay to show, rather than tell, what I did when I volunteered and how it had shaped me as a leader.”

Northeastern hosted a kickoff for the Gates Millennium Scholarship last Thursday and Friday. The event provided support to help students complete the extensive application, which includes eight essays questions and is due in early January.

Students at Northeastern for the kickoff event represented some of the top high- school seniors in Boston, with high GPAs and leadership positions in their schools and communities.

“I am so glad to see this room full. I am so excited to see all of you because of the opportunities that you have before you,” said Ronné Patrick Turner, Northeastern’s associate vice president for enrollment and dean of admissions. “There is no better time than now, because what you do in these next few months will help you achieve your dreams.”

The competitive scholarship, established in 1999 with a $1.6 billion grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, covers college costs for 1,000 high-school seniors of color each year.

“The goal of the Gates scholarship is to provide young people the opportunity to become our nation’s next generation of leaders,” said Ryan Davis of the United Negro College Fund.

In addition to the kickoff event, Northeastern’s Office of Opportunity Scholarship and Outreach Programs is hosting four workshops — one each month between now and January — to help high-school seniors complete their applications. Outreach director Jana McCarthy said partnerships between public schools and institutions like Northeastern are key to increasing the number of students from Boston who receive the Gates scholarship from last year’s count of seven, all young women.

“I’m not happy with just seven students from Boston — we need to do better,” McCarthy said. “The young men especially, we need you to commit to finishing this application.”

Before the students left campus on Friday, they broke up into smaller groups, where current Gates scholars and Northeastern students and staff helped them get started on the application essays.

“Just a little bit of hard work now can make a big difference over the years,” said Northeastern economics major Eric Brooks.