04/24/12 — Two local students earn national Gates scholarships

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Two local students earn national Gates scholarships

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on April 24, 2012 1:46 PM

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Zacchia Cobb

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Marques McPhail

Two Wayne County high school seniors are among 1,000 students nationwide chosen to receive the Gates Millennium Scholarship, covering costs to attend the college of their choice.

Zacchia Cobb, valedictorian at Goldsboro High School, and Marques McPhail, a student at Eastern Wayne High, got the official word late last week.

"When I saw a large package in the mailbox, I ran inside to open it," said Ms. Cobb. "After I read the letter stating I won the scholarship, I screamed out loud. I then called my mom at work and put her on speaker phone.

"She started crying and I started crying. We are so excited. This is a great burden lifted off my mother. We don't have to worry about money or how I am going to pay for college."

McPhail had one word to describe his initial reaction -- surreal.

"I was confident and optimistic, but now that I know, it's unbelievable," he said. "A big burden has been lifted, and I'm so glad I can go to college and not have to worry about finances."

Recipients of the United Negro College Fund's Gates Millennium Scholarship, or GMS, represent 50 states and five outlying areas. The scholarship can be used to pursue degrees in any undergraduate major at the college or university of the student's choice. Scholars may also request funding for a graduate degree program in the following areas: computer science, education, engineering, library science, mathematics, public health or science.

Established in 1999 with the goal of developing the next generation of leaders, the program was initially funded by a $1 billion grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It was created to reduce financial barriers and increase the number of African American, American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian Pacific Islander American and Hispanic American students enrolling in and completing an education in undergraduate programs.

Scholarships are awarded to incoming college freshmen who have demonstrated academic achievement in the classroom and shown leadership and service within their communities.

Ms. Cobb said she believes her own awareness of the importance of community service contributed to her receiving the scholarship.

She has been a volunteer for several organizations, including Boys & Girls Club, Partnership for Children, Community Soup Kitchen and Wayne Memorial Hospital.

McPhail has also been a volunteer, at the Community Soup Kitchen, Britthaven Nursing Home and Habitat for Humanity of Goldsboro/Wayne.

Ms. Cobb is the fifth Gates scholar from Goldsboro High.

"The sky is the limit at Goldsboro High, and I knew my freshman year that I wanted to be top in my class and earn this scholarship," she said. "I feel real honored that the Gates (Millennium Scholarship) committee sees me as someone of great leadership, character and scholarship."

She has received acceptance letters from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Howard University and Wake Forest University.

Although undecided about where she will go in the fall, she said she aspires to be a doctor and will major in biology on the pre-med track.

McPhail, the first Eastern Wayne student to receive the scholarship, plans to attend the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He will major in political science and wants to become a lawyer.

The scholarship award will pay for their tuition, room and board, books, laptops or other required equipment, and study abroad programs. Students will also receive other growth opportunities during college.