Faces of The Millenium.

Text by Nikolai Koveshnikov Photos by Mary Levin

The University of Washington has one of the largest groups of Gates Millennium Scholars in the nation. Students from minority families must demonstrate personal achievement, community service involvement and financial need to win this award. The scholarship covers their basic tuition for all four years of undergraduate study.

The program, a 20-year, $1 billion initiative aimed at reducing the financial barriers to a college education for 20,000 students, was created in 1999 with a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. To date, the foundation has awarded nearly 6,000 scholarships to students studying in five different fields: math, computer sciences, natural sciences, education and liberal arts sciences.

"The best and the brightest students shouldn't be denied access to higher education simply because they can't afford it," Microsoft CEO Bill Gates said when the program was announced. "Melinda and I hope that this gift will not only benefit thousands of students, but also benefit America by empowering a diverse generation of leaders who otherwise might not have a chance."

Over the last three years, the University of Washington has been able to attract 90 Gates Millennium Scholars. Here are the stories of five recipients.

About the Author: A native of Russia, Nikolai Koveshnikov is a senior in the UW Department of Communication and was the Columns intern during Fall Quarter 2002.

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