Woodville-Tompkins senior Chance McKinnie named Gates Millennium Scholar

Woodville-Thompkins senior Chance McKinnie was named as a scholar for the Gates Millennium Scholarship.

Credit: Photo submitted

Combined ShapeCaption
Woodville-Thompkins senior Chance McKinnie was named as a scholar for the Gates Millennium Scholarship.

Credit: Photo submitted

College is expensive, but for Woodville-Tompkins senior Chance McKinnie, it will be a lot easier with a Gates Millennium Scholarship.

McKinnie is one of 300 students nationwide to be chosen as a scholar for the Gates Millennium Scholars Program. "It's not a full scholarship, but it will make sure that I'm graduating debt free," he said.

The last time the Savannah-Chatham County schools had a recipient was in 2015. The district has only had four: 2005, 2013, 2015 and 2022.

The competitive program was founded in 1999 to provide outstanding low-income African American, American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian Pacific Islander American, and Hispanic American students with an opportunity to complete an undergraduate college education in any discipline they choose. It is funded by a $1.6 billion grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The scholarship will help McKinnie cover his unmet education costs. Scholars chosen for the program would have to maintain satisfactory academic progress.

Combined ShapeCaption
Woodville-Thompkins senior Chance McKinnie was named as a scholar for the Gates Millennium Scholarship.

Credit: Photo submitted

Woodville-Thompkins senior Chance McKinnie was named as a scholar for the Gates Millennium Scholarship.

Credit: Photo submitted

Combined ShapeCaption
Woodville-Thompkins senior Chance McKinnie was named as a scholar for the Gates Millennium Scholarship.

Credit: Photo submitted

Credit: Photo submitted

The application

McKinnie said he completed the application for the scholarship the same time he was sending in his college applications and it taught him a skill in time management. He said even with good grades, the scholarship looked beyond his grades, but more in what he was passionate about.

“I think all of those experiences kind of helped me. When it came to the Gates scholarship, (it) helped me write my essays, and have meaningful things to talk about."

McKinnie said after applying it was kind of like a waiting game.

“Once I became a finalist, I felt confident that I would be able to finish out and get the scholarship,” he said. “Once I actually won, it was surreal and I was telling everybody.”

Top student

In addition to winning the scholarship, he will also serve as his school's valedictorian.

His mother, Felica Hall-Williams, said she always knew her son would win an academic scholarship and be the top of his class. “At nine, he told me that he was going to be valedictorian and he has been running ever since,” she said.

In addition to having the top spot, he is part of the National Honor Society, played on the basketball team, was elected student body president and participated in other school-wide clubs. McKinnie said for the the second semester he took duel enrollment classes at the Georgia Southern University Armstrong campus.

Hall-Williams said she went to college, but didn’t finish because of responsibilities like having a family and working a job. Her son will be the first in the family to finish college.

“The feeling is indescribable, I'm very overwhelmed with so many emotions about not only just that, but his accomplishments in life, in his whole life,” she said.

“It has been an amazing ride raising him.”

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Credit: Gerry Broome, AP

Credit: Gerry Broome, AP

Becoming a Tar Hill

In the fall, McKinnie will attend the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He plans to major in psychology and anthropology with a minor in Spanish or Hispanic studies.

“Psychology and anthropology because I'm really interested in people and the behavior of people, "he said. "I'd say I'm a pretty analytical person and I'm always analyzing my behavior and I think it would be cool to do that for other people."

Before thinking about college, he is getting ready for graduation and preparing his graduation speech. The message he would like to leave for other youth in the community is that if you try your best and set a goal anything can happen.

“Just applying yourself and being super determined on your goal whether it's a short term goal or a long term goal. That's all you that's all you really need,” he said.

"Applying yourself, having confidence and if you believe that you can achieve it, then you'll be able to do it.”

Bianca Moorman is the education reporter. Reach her at BMoorman@gannett.com or 912-239-7706. Find her on Twitter @biancarmoorman.

This article originally appeared on Savannah Morning News: Woodville-Tompkins senior Chance McKinnie named Gates Millennium Scholar


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