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SELMA, Ala. (AP) — Selma High School senior Justice Richardson was among 1,000 students nationwide to be awarded the Gates Millennium Scholarship, which is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The scholarship, which is part of the United Negro College Fund, allows recipients to pursue a degree in any undergraduate major and select graduate programs at accredited colleges and universities.
She plans to attend Auburn University to major in architectural design. With her degree she plans to focus on interior design, as she envisions building safe structures for people with impairments. She was inspired by her grandfather's battles with his wheelchair.
"About three years ago, my grandfather was diagnosed with cancer," she said. "It was just hard seeing him transition, as the cancer progressed. After a while he couldn't walk. Just seeing him trying to make the transition from the carpet to the tile was hard for him."
Richardson isn't sure what the scholarship amount will be, but will know later this summer. The scholarship total will be based on the cost of tuition, fees, books and living expenses for the 2015-2016 academic year, according to the scholarship website.
Richardson was so excited about receiving the scholarship she started crying, she said. Even more enthused was her mother Niko Phillips.
"I stalked our postman for at least a week," Phillips said "When the white enveloped arrived I was hysterical. I knew she had it because my own research revealed that winners received white envelopes. I was so happy for her. She has worked extremely hard."
Long nights were spent submitting requirements for the scholarship, Richardson said. Her mom kept her focused and made sure all of her materials were corrected, she said. Richardson said her mother was her rock.
"I wanted to make sure that what she submitted was correct," Phillips said. "Scholarships are so competitive and overwhelming that students need a second pair of eyes to review their work be it parent, teacher, counselor or close friend."
Selma High School's senior counselor Wanda Young-Lowe spent plenty of time with Richardson during the application process. Lowe said she didn't mind proofing essays and writing recommendation letters on the student's behalf.
"She's very intelligent, dedicated and driven," she said. "She has a Type A personality, where she always wants to strive to be the best."
Richardson joins Nivory Gordon III, who received the scholarship last year, as recipients from Selma High School. School principal Aubrey Larkin said he couldn't be more proud of what both students have accomplished.
"When we got the notification that she qualified as well, it was a celebratory moment among the whole SHS family because she is really set for the rest of her life. If she has the desire then she can get it," Larkin said. "That is just amazing for her."
Information from: Times Journal, http://www.selmatimesjournal.com/
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