Cherokee Gates scholars reflect on program’s influence
The Gates Millennium Scholars Program funded Cherokee Nation citizen Felicia Manning’s 2016 study abroad trip to Mossel Bay, South Africa. She interned with Oceans Research, an organization that studies marine wildlife in an effort to manage and conserve South African wildlife. COURTESY
Cherokee Nation citizen Wrighter Weavel, 20, received the Gates Millennium Scholarship in 2015 and plans to transfer to the University of Oklahoma to complete his undergraduate studies. COURTESY
Gates Millennium Scholarship recipient and United Keetoowah Band citizen Corey Still, 26, graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2013 with a bachelor's in Native American Studies with an emphasis in education. COURTESY
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – It has been more than a year since the last cohort for the Gates Millennium Scholars Program was announced, giving several Cherokee recipients time to reflect on the scholarship’s legacy and impact it has made on their lives.
“It was just a huge, huge blessing,” Felicia Manning said.
Manning is one of 326 Cherokees who are citizens of the three federally recognized Cherokee tribes to receive the scholarship during the program’s 16-year run, according to the American Indian Graduate Center, which oversees the GMSP.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation created the program in 2000. It funds any undergraduate study area and seven graduate study areas: computer science, education, engineering, library science, mathematics, public health and science.
A 2010 scholarship selection, Manning recently completed her first year of graduate study in marine science at Jacksonville University in Jacksonville, Florida.
The program also funded Manning’s 2016 study abroad trip to Mossel Bay, South Africa. While there she tagged sharks with Oceans Research, an organization dedicated to Southern African wildlife management and conservation via marine research.
“That’s a group that I had been following for a long time,” Manning said. “The fact that they actually picked my school, and I’m partnered with them and I get to do my thesis work with them, that has just been so awesome. Gates (scholarship) definitely helped pave the way for me to do that.”
The scholarship is also paving a better future for Wrighter Weavel, 20, a 2015 recipient.
“I wasn’t even going to go to college, but when I found out that I got Gates, that opened so many opportunities for me to go anywhere I want, to experience any life, any culture in the entire United States,” he said.
Weavel said he plans to transfer to the University of Oklahoma to complete his undergraduate studies in education or medicine, with an overall goal to obtain a doctorate.
“I want to get my Ph.D. and I want to be called Dr. Weavel because I have a plan,” he said. “I want to have little ones, and I want them to look at me and see where I came from and to understand that it doesn’t matter the background you have, if you want to do something, you can do whatever you set your mind to.”
Weavel said he has also benefited from the scholarship beyond financial assistance.
“They offer mentors, which the mentors are a huge help,” he said. “They really help expand your mind on exactly what the scholarship can do for you.”
Weavel’s mentor is Corey Still, 26, a United Keetoowah Band citizen who received the scholarship in 2009.
Though initially interested in business and law, Still is now obtaining a doctorate in adult and higher education at OU.
“I really began to fall in love with this idea of education and how we can help our communities through education,” he said. “I really wanted to be able to help other people and especially other students.”
Still said he looks forward to joining the few Native American men with doctorates, which he decided to pursue because of the “faith” the GMSP puts into its scholars. “Whether they know it or not, that by selecting us as scholars and putting a little bit of faith into us, we’re going to go out and make something with those scholarships and with those degrees, that we’re going to make some type of impact within our community or greater society.”
Still serves on the Gates Millennium Alumni Advisory Council as the American Indian Graduate Center liaison and said he appreciates the “communal and family ties” the GMSP creates. “You really see the impact this scholarship has, and not just within Indian Country, because the scholarship itself is for minority students in under-represented fields. And so you really see the connections that are created across cultural barriers and across the country and it really does become a family.”
Of the Cherokee recipients, 313 are CN citizens, eight are UKB citizens and five are Eastern Band citizens.
In its 16 years, the GMSP funded more than 20,000 scholars and awarded more than $934 million in scholarship funds. The program ended in 2016, but the Hispanic Scholarship Fund manages a new version.Editor’s Note: Reporter Brittney Bennett is a 2011 Gates Millennium Scholarship recipient.
ᏓᎵᏆ, ᎣᎦᎵᎰᎹ. – ᎤᎪᏓ ᎠᎪᎯᎸ ᎾᏃ ᏑᎶᏘᏴᏓᎾᏍᎩ ᎣᏂ ᎤᎾᏓᏢᎩ ᎠᏂᎦᏟᏯ ᎨᏒ ᎤᎾᏚᎵᏍᎩ Gates Millennium Scholars Program ᎤᏂᏃᎮᏢ, ᏓᏂᏅᏁᎲ ᎢᎸᏍᎩ ᎠᏂᏣᎳᎩ ᎠᏂᏁᏍᎦ ᏄᏍᏛ ᎾᏁᎵᏍᎬ ᎾᎿ ᏧᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᏙᏗ ᏄᎵᏍᏔᏂᏙᎸ ᎠᎴ ᏄᎵᏍᏔᏅ ᏓᎾᎴᏂᏙᎲᎢ.
“ᎢᎦᏃ ᎤᏔᎾ ᎣᏍᏓ ᎠᏰᎸᏓ ᎨᏒᎢ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬ Felicia Manning.
Manning ᎾᏍᎩ ᏌᏊ ᎾᏍᎩ 326 ᎾᏂᎥ ᎠᏂᏣᎳᎩ ᎠᏁᎳ ᎾᎿ ᏦᎢ ᏄᎾᏓᏡᎬ ᎨᎪᎵᏍᏙᏗ ᎠᏂᏣᎳᎩ ᎾᏂᎳᏍᏓᏢ ᏗᎬᏩᏂᏁᏍᏗ ᏧᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᏙᏗ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎯᎠ ᏧᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᏙᏗ ᎬᏩᏂᏍᏕᎸᏙᏗ ᏧᏂᏁᏍᏙᏗ ᎾᎿ ᏓᎳᏚ ᏧᏕᏘᏴᏓ ᏂᎦᏯᎢᏐᎢ, ᎾᏂᏪᏍᎬ ᎾᎿ ᎠᎹᎵᎧ ᎠᏂᏴᏫᏯ ᏗᏂᏍᏆᏗᏍᎩ ᎠᏰᏟ, ᎾᏍᎩ ᎤᎾᎦᏎᏍᏙᏗ GMSP.
ᎾᏍᎩ Bill ᎠᎴ Melinda Gates Foundation ᎤᏬᏢᏅ ᎯᎠ ᎬᏩᎾᎵᏍᏕᎸᏙᏗ ᎾᎿ ᏔᎵ ᏯᎦᏴᎵ ᎤᏕᏘᏴᏌᏗᏒᎢ. ᎾᏍᎩ ᏚᏂᎲ ᎠᏕᎳ ᎾᎿ Ꮭ ᏧᏍᏆᏛ ᏱᎩ ᎤᎾᎦᏎᏍᏔᏅᏗ ᎠᎴ ᎦᎵᏉᎩ ᏗᏂᏍᏆᏗᏍᎩ ᎤᎾᎦᏎᏍᏙᏗ ᎤᏙᏢᏒ: ᎯᎠ ᏥᏕᎪᏪᎵ ᎤᎾᎦᏎᏍᏙᏗᎢ computer science, ᏧᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗ, engineering, library science, ᏗᏎᏍᏗᏅ, public health and science.
ᎾᎿ ᏔᎵ ᏯᎦᏴᎵ ᏍᎪᎯ ᎤᏕᏘᏴᏌᏗᏒ ᏗᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᎩ ᏧᎾᏑᏰᏓ, Manning ᎾᏝᎬ ᏚᏍᏆᏛ ᎢᎬᏱ ᏑᏕᏘᏴᏓ ᎨᏒ ᎤᎦᏎᏍᏩᏛᎢ ᎾᏍᎩ Marine science ᎾᎿ Jacksonville University ᎾᎿ Jacksonville, Florida.
ᎯᎠ ᎤᏙᏢᏅ ᎾᎿ ᎬᏩᎾᎵᏍᏕᎸᏙᏗ Manning ᏔᎵ ᏯᎦᏴᎵ ᏓᎳᏚ ᎤᏕᏘᏴᏌᏗᏒ ᎤᎾᎦᏎᏍᏗ ᏭᏁᏙᎸ ᎾᏍᎩ Mossel Bay, South Africa. ᎾᎿ ᏪᏙᎲ ᏚᏬᏪᎳᏅ ᎯᎠ sharks ᎾᎿ ᎠᎻᏉ ᎤᏂᏯᎸᏍᎩ, ᎯᎠ ᎤᎾᏙᏢᎯ Southern African ᎢᎾᎨ ᎡᎾᎢ ᎤᎾᎦᏎᏍᏗᏕᎦ ᎠᎴ ᎤᎾᎦᏎᏍᏔᏅ ᏄᏍᏗᏓᏅ via marine ᎤᏂᏯᎸᏍᎨᎢ.
“ᎾᏍᎩ ᎯᎠ ᎤᎾᏓᏡᎩ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎦᏥᏍᏓᏩᏗᏙᎲ ᎪᎯᏓ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬ Manning. “ᎾᏍᏳᏃ ᎯᎠ ᏧᎾᏑᏰᏒ ᏗᏆᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗᎢ, ᎠᎴ ᏥᏙᎩᎾᏦᎸᏔᏅ ᎠᎴ ᎡᎵᏊ ᏃᎬᏁᎸ thesis ᏂᎦᏓ, ᎾᏍᎩᎾ ᎢᎦᎢ ᎠᏆᎵᎮᎵᏨᎢ. Gates (scholarship) ᎤᏙᎯᏳ ᎬᎩᏍᏕᎸᎲ ᎾᎿ ᎢᎬᏁᎸ ᎾᎿ ᎠᏆᏚᎵᏍᎬᎢ.”
ᎾᏍᎩ ᏗᏕᎶᏆᏍᏙᏗ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏓᏤᏢ ᏫᏥᎦᏛᎢ ᎾᎿ Wrighter Weavel, 20, ᎾᏍᎩ 2015 ᎤᏁᏍᏗᎢ.
“ ᏝᏃ ᏱᏙᏛᎦᏕᎶᏆᎢᏎ ᎦᎸᎳᏗ ᏧᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗ, ᎠᏎᏃ ᏣᏆᏕᎶᎰᏒ ᎠᎩᏁᏒ Gates, ᎾᎿ ᎤᎵᏍᏚᎢᏒ ᏓᏝᏅᏓᏗᏍᎬ ᎠᏇᏅᏍᏗ ᎾᎿ ᎠᏆᏚᎵᏍᎬ, ᎾᎿ ᎠᎩᎦᏙᎢᎲᏍᏗ ᎦᎴᏂᏙᎲᎢ, ᏧᏓᎴᏅᏓ ᎢᏳᎾᏛᏁᎵᏓᏍᏗ ᎠᏂᏴᏫ ᎠᎯᎲᎢ ᎠᎹᏱᏟ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ.
Weavel ᎠᏗᏍᎬ ᏚᏭᎪᏛ ᎤᏁᏟᏴᏍᏗ ᏧᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎯᎠ University of Oklahoma ᏧᏍᏆᏗᏍᏗ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎤᎦᏎᏍᏙᏗ ᎪᎱᏍᏗ Ꮟ ᎤᏁᏓ ᏂᎨᏒᎾ ᎢᎬᏱ ᎤᏁᏍᏓ ᎨᏒᎢ ᎾᎿ ᏧᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗ ᎤᎬᏩᏟ ᎠᎴ ᏅᏬᏘ, ᎾᏍᎩᎾ ᏂᎦᏓ ᎨᏒ a doctorate.
“ᎠᏆᏚᎵ ᎠᎩᏁᏍᏗ Ph.D. ᎠᎴ ᎠᏆᏚᎵ ᎬᎩᏯᏅᏙᏗ Dr. Weavel ᏅᏗᎦᎵᏍᏙᏗ ᎪᎱᏍᏗ ᏓᏊᎪᏓ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ. “ᎠᏆᏚᎵ ᏗᏂᏲᏟ ᏗᎩᎧᎯ ᎢᏳᎵᏍᏙᏗ, ᎠᎴ ᏗᎬᎩᎧᏃᏗ ᏃᎴ ᎤᎾᏅᏘ ᎢᏳᎵᏍᏙᏗ ᎾᏳ ᏂᏛᏆᏓᎴᏅ ᎨᏒ ᎠᎴ ᎤᏃᏟᏗ ᎪᎱᏍᏗ ᏂᎨᏒᎾ ᎨᏒ ᎾᎿ ᏂᏓᏣᏓᎴᏅ ᎨᏒᎢ, ᎢᏳᏃ ᏱᏣᏚᎵ ᎪᎱᏍᏗ ᎢᏣᎵᏍᏙᏗ ᏱᎾᏛᎦ.”
Weavel ᎤᏘᏂᏙᎯ ᎾᏍᎩ Corey Still, ᏔᎵᏍᎪ ᏑᏓᎵ ᏳᏕᏘᏴᏓ, ᎠᏂᎩᏚᏩᎩ ᎠᏂᏴᏫᏯ ᎩᎳ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎤᏁᏎ ᎠᎴ ᏚᎩᏎ ᏧᏕᎶᏆᏍᏙᏗ ᎾᎿ ᏔᎵ ᏯᎦᏴᎵ ᏐᏁᎳ ᎤᏕᏘᏴᏌᏗᏒᎢ.
ᎠᏓᏅᏖᏍᎬ ᎯᎠ ᎢᏳᏛᏗ ᎠᎴ ᏗᎧᎾᏩᏛᏍᏗ, Still ᏃᏊ ᏓᏕᎶᏆᎢ ᎾᏍᎩ doctorate ᎢᏳᎵᏍᏙᏗ ᎾᎿ ᏧᎾᏔᏂ ᎠᎴ ᎠᎦᎸᎳᏗᏴ ᏗᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗ ᎨᏒ ᎾᎿ OU.
“ᏙᎯᏳ ᏥᎸᏉᏗᏍᎪ ᎾᏍᎩᎾ ᎦᏓᏅᏖᏍᎬ ᏗᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗ ᎠᎴ ᎢᎦ ᏗᎬᏍᏕᎸᏗ ᎨᏒ ᏍᎦᏚᎩ ᎾᎿ ᏗᏕᏲᏗ ᏗᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ. “ᏙᎯᏳ ᏯᏆᏚᎵ ᎡᎵ ᏯᏆᏛᏗ ᎠᏂᏐᎢ ᎦᎦᏥᏍᏕᎸᏗ ᎨᏒᎢ ᎠᎴ ᎠᏂᏐᎢ ᏗᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᎩ.”
Still ᎠᏗᏍᎬ ᎠᎦᏖᏃᎯ ᏧᏖᎳᏕᏗ ᎠᏂᎦᏲᏟ ᎠᏂᎯᏯ ᎠᎹᏱᏟ ᎠᏁᎯ ᎠᏂᏍᎦᏯ ᎾᏍᎩ doctorates ᏧᏂᎾᎢ, ᎾᏍᎩ ᎤᏠᏯ ᎾᏍᏊ ᎠᏁᎶᏗ ᎤᏁᏍᏗᎢ ᎾᏗᎦᎵᏍᏙᏗ “ᎤᏬᎯᏳᏒᎢ” ᎾᏍᎩ GMSP ᏧᏢᏗ ᏧᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᏙᏗ. “ᎢᏳᏃ ᏳᎾᏅᏘ ᎠᎴ ᏝᏱᎩ, ᎾᏍᎩ ᎠᏑᏰᏍᎬ ᏗᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗ ᎠᎴ ᎪᎪᎯᏳᎲᏍᎬ, ᏓᏲᏣᏂᎩᏏ ᎪᎱᏍᏗ ᎣᏍᏗ ᏗᎬᏙᏗ ᏂᏙᏓᏲᏨᏁᎵ ᎯᎠ ᏙᏣᏕᎶᏆᏍᎬ, ᎠᎴ ᏗᏍᎦᏚᎩ ᏚᏙᏢᏒ ᏓᏲᏣᏁᎶᏔᏂ ᏄᏓᎴ ᎠᎴ ᎤᎪᏛ ᎣᏍᏓ ᎢᏧᎵᏍᏙᏗᎢ.”
Still ᏓᏍᏕᎵᏍᎪ ᎾᎿ Gates Millennium Alumni Advisory Council ᎾᏍᎩ ᎯᎠ ᎠᎹᎵᎧ ᎠᏂᏴᏫᏯ ᏗᏂᏍᏆᏗᏍᎩ ᎠᏰᏟ liaison ᎠᎴ ᎠᏗᏍᎬ ᎠᎵᎮᎵᎪ ᎾᏍᎩ “ᏴᏫ ᏓᏁᎲ ᎠᎴ ᏏᏓᏁᎸ ᏚᎾᏓᏂᏴᏛ” ᎾᏍᎩ GMSP ᎪᏢᏍᎬᎢ. “ᏂᎯᏃ ᏙᎦᏳ ᎢᏥᎪᏩᏘᏍᎪ ᎯᎠ ᏧᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᏙᏗ ᎣᏍᏓ ᎨᏒ, ᎠᎴ Ꮭ ᏙᎯᏳ ᎠᏂᏴᏫᏯ ᎢᎦ ᎠᏁᎲᎢ, ᏅᏗᎦᎵᏍᏙᏗ ᏗᏕᎶᏆᏍᏙᏗ ᎨᏒ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎠᏂᎦᏲᏢ ᎢᏗᏝ ᏗᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᎩ ᏓᏁᎲᎢ ᎰᏩ ᎾᎾᏛᎩᏍᎬᎾ. ᎢᏗᎪᏩᏘᏃ ᏓᏓᏂᏴᏗᏍᎬ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏗᎬᏩᎾᏗᏫᏍᏗ ᏓᏁᎲ ᎢᏳᎾᏛᏁᎵᏓᏍᏗ ᏚᏓᎴᎾᎥ ᎠᎴ ᏗᎬᏩᎾᏗᏫᏍᏗ ᎤᏙᏢᏒ ᎠᎴ ᏙᎯᏳ ᏏᏓᏁᎸ ᏂᎦᎵᏍᏗᏍᎪᎢ.”
ᎾᏍᎩ ᎠᏂᏣᎳᎩ ᏚᏂᏢᎥ, 313 ᎾᏍᎩ ᎠᏂᏣᎳᎩ ᎠᏁᎳ, ᏧᏁᎳ ᎾᏍᎩ UKB ᎠᏁᎳ ᎠᎴ ᎯᏍᎩ ᏯᏂ ᎠᏂᎩᏚᏩᎩ ᎠᏂᏴᏫᏯ ᎠᏁᎳ.
ᎾᏍᎩ ᏓᎳᏚ ᏧᏕᏘᏴᏓ, ᎾᏍᎩ GMSP ᎠᎾᎵᏍᎪᎸᏗᏍᎪ ᎤᎪᏛ ᎾᏃ ᏔᎵᏍᎪ ᎢᎦᏴᎵ ᏧᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᏙᏗ ᎠᎴ ᏗᎨᏥᏅᏁᏗ ᎤᎪᏛ ᎾᏃ 934 ᎢᏳᏆᏗᏅᏓ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏧᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᏙᏗ ᎠᏕᎳ. ᎯᎠ ᎤᏙᏢᎯ ᎠᏍᏆᏗᏍᎬ ᏔᎵ ᏯᎦᏴᎵ ᏓᎳᏚ, ᎠᏎᏃ ᎾᏍᎩ Hispanic Scholarship Fund manges a new version.
Editor’s note: Reporter Brittney Bennett is a 2011 Gates Millennium Scholarship recipient.