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BHS senior earns good-through-graduation scholarship

June 4, 2014

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Berkley High School senior Justin Rogers was one of 1,000 students nationwide selected to receive the Gates Millennium Scholarship, a good-through-graduation award. More than 52,000 students applied for the scholarship.

BERKLEY — Justin Rogers has two main passions in life, and he isn’t willing to sacrifice one for the other. But he knows he has to prioritize to accomplish both.

Rogers, who is part of the upcoming June 5, 2014, Berkley High School graduating class, will attend the University of Michigan this fall and major in engineering. He said his love of math and science led him to that decision, and he feels it is a worthwhile career choice.

However, Rogers doesn’t plan on being an engineer for the rest of his life.

Eventually, he will quit whatever job he has to attend culinary school with hopes of one day opening his own restaurant.

“I really enjoy math and science and I found a career using engineering, but I also love to cook and make food for others,” Rogers, 18, said. “I want go get financially stable so I can then branch out. What I wanted for my future was to try and do both.”

Rogers’ dream will be a little easier, thanks to help from the Gates Millennium Scholarship. In May, Rogers was selected as one of 1,000 students from across the country to receive the good-through-graduation scholarship.

To do so, he had to compete with more than 52,000 other eligible students.

“It is really exciting, and I was kind of shocked,” Rogers said. “I was happy to be one of the finalists, but I didn’t expect to be actually chosen for the scholarship. It blew me away and took a lot of worry and stress away from finding a way to pay for college and not having to worry about student debt or loans.

“It took a real burden off my shoulders, so I’m really excited.”

The Gates Millennium Scholarship was established in 1999 and initially was funded by a $1 billion grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The goal of the scholarship is to reduce the financial burden for minority students when they attend college.

The scholarship will cover any unmet need for students — including tuition and books — and will continue to fund the students’ education in graduate school in a select number of fields, including engineering.

To have the chance to finish undergraduate and graduate school without any debt is an exciting prospect, Rogers said.

“My mom didn’t want me to go to college taking out loans and said we would figure out a way to pay by finding other scholarships to cover it, so this scholarship was pretty important,” he said. “When my mom went to college, there wasn’t a lot of resources back before she took out loans, so she is still paying them back now. I see a lot of my mom’s generation having to take on this debt, so my mom was very excited when I got this.”

For the scholarship, Rogers had to fill out an application and write seven to nine essays that could be up to 1,000 words. When he was selected as a finalist, he had to submit a letter from the college he had been accepted to and his transcript.

In the essays, Rogers had to write about topics such as his worst subject and how he could improve it, and on his future goals, which he took as an opportunity to inform the judges about his plans to be both an engineer and a chef.

BHS Principal Randy Gawel said Rogers is an ideal student to receive the scholarship.

“He is certainly deserving because of his academic achievements, involvement in our school and ways in which he has made our school better, but they also got it right in that he is just an outstanding young man,” Gawel said. “He is deserving for the person he is as much as what he has accomplished. The problem you have when you apply for a scholarship is it is difficult to convey the whole person, but the person Justin is, he is a wonderful person.”

Rogers said he had a 3.967 GPA as of his first semester of his senior year, and he expects it to be around the same when he graduates.

And while Rogers’ grades and coursework look impressive, Gawel said part of what makes the Gates Millennium Scholarship special is that it tries to look past the classroom.

“The Gates Scholarship does well in that it tries to gauge potential and tries to see what a student will do in the future,” he said. “Justin will change the world for the better, and for a scholarship to somehow see that and reward that is a great thing. They definitely hit the nail on the head with this one.”

Even though Rogers’ long-term plan may be a little out of the ordinary, he feels just as confident in his cooking skills as he does his engineering skills.

“I do pastas very well, like fettuccine Alfredo and spaghetti, and I make the sauces from scratch,” he said. “I also do cakes very well. I have not mastered the decorating, but making the cakes, I have done pretty well.”

About the author

Josh Gordon covers Berkley, Ferndale, Huntington Woods and Pleasant Ridge along with the Berkely Schools and Ferndale Schools districts for the Woodward Talk. Josh has worked for C & G Newspapers since 2013 and attended Central Michigan University. Josh won a Society of Professional Journalism award in 2015 and is an avid fan of the Green Bay Packers. During his free time, Josh likes to read, try new foods and snowboard.

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