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Philly High School Senior Earns Prestigious Gates Scholarship to Cap Over $2M In Other Awards

A southwest Philly high school senior will get to go to the college of her dream on a full-ride scholarship after being selected as a Gates Scholar. 

Last week Akayla Brown of William W. Bodine High School learned that she was one of 300 seniors selected for the highly competitive and prestigious award — over 34,000 students applied for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation scholarship nationwide. 

She was overwhelmed by the news, telling ABC6, “When I got the letter, I was in shock. I was shaking.” She added, “I was jumping up and down, screaming.”

The application process is unlike most, and essays play a critical role in being selected. Pell-eligible students from underrepresented backgrounds apply for a chance to have their entire tuition and board bill covered at any institution of their choosing. Applicants must possess at least a 3.3 cumulative weighted GPA on a 4.0 scale. With a 4.19 GPA, Brown is slated to graduate third in her senior class.

The 18-year-old started her application journey months before the deadline with the help of her mother. The scholarship will take care of her entire bill, including tuition, room and board, and even other personal expenses for five years. Brown has also already won several college presidential scholarships and has more than $2 million in offers. 

The high school senior believes her nonprofit called Dimplez 4 Dayz Inc made her shine brighter than the competition, which she discussed in her essays when she applied. She founded the youth-run organization when she was just a 13-year-old.  She was inspired to portray youth in a positive light in the community. Her organization hosts various events throughout the year, including turkey giveaways during the holiday season, help with back-to-school events, and feeding the homeless. 

Brown recently launched Dimplez Dreamz Youth Workforce Fellowship to offer educational, employment, and training services to 50 young adults. She is also active in reducing the gun violence crisis in her city.

“I always loved helping people. I always noticed there were issues with my community, and I knew I was a strong speaker and very much independent,” she said to local station ABC 6 last week. 

Brown has already decided on where she wants to enroll freshman year as she plans to major in international business, but she hasn’t announced it. “I will say that I got into my top three choices: Temple and Villanova, and Howard,” she told Philly Mag. “I also got into Drexel and others. Ivy League schools like Princeton and Yale rejected me. But that’s fine. I’ve dealt with rejection before, and I really didn’t want to go to them. We just applied to see.” 

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