Gates award earns local student shot at his dream
GCHS senior Alcantar named a 2013 Gates Millenium Scholar.
By RACHAEL GRAY
It had always been Jose Alcantar's dream to attend the University of Oklahoma, but the 17-year-old Garden City High School senior was thinking he was going to have to settle for a scholarship to the University of Kansas.
But recently, Alcantar learned he had been named a 2013 Gates Millennium Scholar, earning him a full scholarship to the college of his choice. He chose Oklahoma.
"It's a dream come true for me and for my family. I am one step closer in my pursuit of happiness," he said.
Alcantar said that before, he had worried about college being a financial burden to his mother, Teresa.
"Growing up in a single- parent household, my mom worked three jobs to try to give me the best life she could," he said.
Part of Alcantar's dream is to repay his mother so she can retire early. He wants to major in international business and entrepreneurship. His ideal job would be one that requires global travel.
A trip to Costa Rica opened up Alcantar's eyes to the rest of the world.
"I learned there's just so much more out there than Kansas and the Midwest," he said.
Alcantar had no problem communicating in the Latin American country. He's an Advanced Placement Spanish student.
"I grew up and knew it, but now I've really learned it. My mom wanted to make sure I learned," he said.
Alcantar doesn't want to stop at two languages.
"I'd like to learn a third. I think being trilingual will come in handy," he said.
Alcantar is the fifth consecutive Garden City Community College Educational Talent Search student in five years to be named a Gates Millennium Scholar.
He's been in ETS since the sixth grade. He plans to join the TRIO program at OU. TRIO is the collegiate talent search program.
Alcantar recommends other students join ETS to help plan for the future.
"If you want to go to college, they will be there and guide you through those obstacles. They'll help you edit your essays and line up community service that looks good on rÃ©sumÃ©s," he said.
Alcantar has been working with Rebekah Fitzpatrick and Shajia Donecker, educational advisors for the ETS and TRIO programs.
"There have been different advisors over the years at school, but ETS has always been there for me," he said.
Fitzpatrick said Alcantar is a focused student, who will go far in his education and career endeavors.
"He's grown into a very nice young man. He's very respectful and very driven. He knows what his goals are, and he knows what hard work is required to achieve those goals," she said.
Alcantar has advice for other students who may face challenges and want to give up.
"I'd just say, 'God didn't give you anything you can't handle. There are people who have it way worse than you do,'" he said.
Alcantar said he was excited that he is a Gates Millennium Scholar, and that the waiting process was long.
"I thought, 'If I don't get it, there must have been someone who needed it more than I did,'" he said.
Studying and completing school work and applications has been hard work, but it's been worth it, he said.
"I just would tell people don't give up. Follow your dreams and keep on going. It's worth it," he said.
Alcantar thanks all of the people who have been there for him, encouraging him.
But mostly, he thanks his mom.
"She is my backbone. I don't know where I would be without her," he said.
Alcantar was one of 1,000 Gates Millennium Scholars across the nation.
Past local winners include: Hugo¬ Ailon, 2012 GCHS graduate; Theresa¬ Amante, 2011 GCHS graduate; Bianca Martinez, 2010 GCHS graduate; and Abraham Rodriguez, 2009 GCHS graduate. All five students have been participants in ETS, a¬ U.S. Department of Education TRIO program that prepares students in grades six through 12 for post-secondary education and graduation. ETS at GCCC serves more than 630 students in USD 457 each year through career counseling opportunities, workshops, college visits, tutoring and other programs.