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Senior Jordan Benefield Receives Prestigious Gates Scholarship

student in hallThe email about the Gates Scholarship landed in Jordan Benefield’s spam folder and she might have missed it were she not such an organized person. The Amherst Central High School senior said she checks her spam folder and the Gates Scholarship subject line caught her eye.

Reading that email started her on a course of eight months of hard work to meet the deadlines of the scholarship’s four phases. Her diligence paid off when she was notified that she was named a 2022 Gates Scholar, an incredible honor given to only 300 students nationwide.

The very competitive scholarship from The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is for outstanding, minority, high school seniors from low-income households. It covers the full cost of college attendance that is not already covered by other financial aid and the expected family contribution, as determined by the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Additionally, Gates Scholars receive online support services such as academic mentoring, professional advice and guidance from their first to last day of classes, through graduation and the transition to their chosen careers.  

“If I had a message or something that I wanted people to know, it would be that hard work pays off and it can be you,” she said. “Meaning, specifically orientated at Amherst's POC and minority students, it is extremely easy to think ‘I'm not good enough’ or ‘I'm not smart enough’ and to be caught up in the idea that your goal is too high and your reach simply isn't far enough. But it is possible. You can accomplish anything, no matter how it may seem or what might be against you. It's going to take a lot of work, hard work, and you might not see the payoff right away, but you will see a payoff. You have to be willing to make the possibilities. Once you do, they're endless.”

Jordan plans to attend the University at Buffalo and major in nuclear medicine technology with the career goal of becoming a radiologist or continuing her education to become a physician.

At the May 3 ACSD Board of Education meeting, she was recognized by the superintendent for her achievement and was invited to attend the meeting. She told the board about her future plans.

"For the future, I am going to the University at Buffalo. I decided to stay local just to give back to my community and a community like Amherst that has just really pushed me and gave me so much support throughout the scholarship process and just going through my years of being in high school," she said. "Nuclear medicine technology is also going to be my major and possibly maybe become a radiologist with a doctorate degree in the future and open up a small clinic in Buffalo and just really keep the love going local and give back to the community."

The Gates Scholarship process has four phases, and she started phase one in August to provide basic information, family income and her grades. During the essay phase, she had to write four essays answering prompts such as what are your strengths, her goals and why she thinks she deserves the scholarship. She had both her current English teacher and 10th grade English teacher review them to be sure they were polished enough to submit. She said the application process was very long and at one point in January she was busy studying for mid-term exams, as well as writing the scholarship essays. During the interview phase, she was interviewed by a counselor from North Carolina.

She has also applied for a number of local scholarships. At school she has been a member of the Spanish club for four years and she works part-time at Tops as a cashier. She’s got an older sister who attends UB and two younger brothers.

When she was notified that she received the scholarship, she was ecstatic.

“There were tears, there was a rollercoaster of emotions,” she said. “They let you know by email so I was waiting for the status update and it usually came by 8 exactly on the dot and it hadn’t come. It didn’t come until 8:08 so for those 7 minutes, it was really painful. It came at 8:08 and I got the congratulations email and I was so happy.”