(L to R) Sequoyah High School’s 2015 Gates Millennium Scholars Billy Sunday, Payne Ummerteskee, Bailee Smith, Sadie Red Eagle and Tyler VonHolt.
TAHLEQUAH, OKLAHOMA – Five Sequoyah High School seniors have been named Gates Millennium Scholars, receiving up to $1.25 million in college scholarships from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Each year the foundation awards 1,000 minority students, 150 of which are Native American, up to $250,000 in college scholarships per scholar. The scholarship is based on a 3.5 GPA, community service hours, leadership and eight written essays.
Sequoyah’s 2015 Gates Millennium Scholars are Sadie Red Eagle, 18, of La Mesa, California; Tyler VonHolt, 18, and Payne Ummerteskee, 17, both of Muldrow; and Bailee Smith, 17, and Billy Sunday III, 19, both of Tahlequah.
“It is a tribute to the hard work and dedication shown by our students to be selected as Gates Millennium Scholars,” Sequoyah Schools’ Superintendent Leroy Qualls said. “Sequoyah is consistently one of the top schools in the nation in the number of Gates Millennium Scholarship recipients each year, which is something we take great pride in.”
Since 2002, Sequoyah has produced 63 Gates Scholars. According to the American Indian Graduate Center, which selects American Indian recipients of the scholarship, Sequoyah High School graduates among the highest volume of Gates Scholars in the country each year.
“To be named a Gates Scholar feels really rewarding because I don’t have to worry about the price of college,” Red Eagle said. “My family can’t afford to help pay for school, so I would be forced to pay everything out of pocket or take on thousands of dollars in student loans. I don’t have to worry about that now.”
Red Eagle is the daughter of Jim Red Eagle and Amy NoEar. She will attend Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, this fall and major in political science. She is Otoe-Missouria.
“I wasn’t expecting to get it, so I’m extremely relieved,” said Ummerteskee, a Cherokee Nation citizen. “If I didn’t get it, I wasn’t going to be able to go to my first choice for college, because I didn’t have the money to pay for it. Gates allows me to attend the college I really want to go to.”
Ummerteskee, the son of Paul and Olivia Ummerteskee, will attend the University of Tulsa and major in pre-med and chemical engineering.
VonHolt is the son of Billie House. He will attend Rogers State University in Claremore and major in pre-med. He is a Cherokee Nation citizen.
Smith, the daughter of Jarryd and April Smith, will attend Northeastern State University in Tahlequah and study elementary education. She is a citizen of the Choctaw Nation.
Sunday, the son of Billy Sunday and Leighann Quinton, will attend the University of Hawaii and major in athletic training. He is a Cherokee Nation citizen.