By: Greg Russell
Never in a thousand years did Kyndra Outlaw figure she had a chance to attend the
University of Memphis. But thanks to the generosity of one of the wealthiest couples
in the world, Outlaw is pursing her dream at the U of M.
The Gates Millennium Scholars (GMS) program, a part of the Bill and Melinda Gates
Foundation, is enabling Outlaw and two other students to attend the University by
providing them with financial aid.
GMS scholarships are awarded to minority undergraduate students across the country
who demonstrate academic excellence and strong leadership skills. It is administered
by the UNCF.
“My college experience would definitely be different without the scholarship because
I would not be able to attend the University of Memphis,” said Outlaw, a home furnishings
merchandising major from Starkville, Miss. “With this scholarship, I have the financial
support that I need to attend college and not worry about any expenses. I can focus
Outlaw said she has never met Bill Gates, but has a message for him.
“I would share with him the impact that the scholarship has had on my life so that
he could see the power behind his work. I would ask him questions about his goals
for me personally as a scholar. I would hope that he would challenge me so that I
can see his expectations to make sure I am achieving my fullest potential.
“Just mentioning that I am a Gates Millennium Scholar is an attention-getter because
of the high standard and prestige of this scholarship. When applying for leadership
positions, scholarships and internships, I feel like this scholarship opens doors
for these opportunities.”
Outlaw, president of the U of M Student Activities Council, said GMS also offers a
“It has a networking and mentoring program which opens door to other professionals
and scholars. Without this scholarship, I would not have met these people. The networking
and mentoring provides me with connections to professionals throughout the program
and all around the nation,” said the junior, who minors in real estate and who plans
to get a master’s degree in public health or education.
Sherenda Moss and Emanuel Toney are the other two U of M students in the GMS program.
Gates, who co-founded Microsoft in the mid-1970s, and his wife, Melinda, set up the
Gates Foundation partly to “focus on improving public education.” Last December, the
Foundation awarded $90 million to Memphis City Schools to help improve teacher effectiveness.
It has donated billions of dollars to various causes around the world.
Since its inception 10 years ago, more than 14,000 students have benefited from GMS.
It has awarded $500 million in scholarships to students around the country. GMS receives
approximately 13,000 applications each year, with an average of 1,000 students being
selected annually to receive the scholarship.
GMS was originally launched with a $1 billion grant from the Gates Foundation.