Wichita senior wins rare scholarship for his family

Published: May. 7, 2016 at 2:28 PM CDT
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Nearly 100 Kansas high school seniors walked into the KWCH 12 studio Saturday afternoon with big dreams.

Zach Wiens said he plans to study aerospace engineering at the University of Kansas. He's not sure exactly what he wants to do with the degree but has some ideas.

"Maybe be a mission controller or some sort of research scientist," he said.

Sofia Garcia is heading to Harvard in the fall to pursue a degree in mathematics.

"I really have a passion for math and I love finding patterns," she said.

Among the students is Rogelio Martinez, a senior at Wichita North High School.

"I want to become a neurosurgeon," he said.

Out of the 53,000 applicants, Martinez is one of only 1,000 nationwide who won the Gates Millennium Scholarship. The scholarship means he has a full ride to any university he wants to attend across the country. He said the best part is what this means for his girlfriend and two-year-old son.

"It's really big for us financially because as a teenage family we have to work and have to do other things in order to meet the needs for our family and not having to worry about tuition and books and fees and all that is really helpful. That money could be saved for his college," Martinez said.

But the process of getting the scholarship wasn't easy.

"There was around nine essays. there was a word limit of 1,000 words. On average mine were 600 words a piece. Other than that there were two recommendations. One from a teacher and one from a community member," he said. The process took him six months.

He thought he didn't get the scholarship at first. He knew he was a finalist but the scholarship organization had an issue with some of his verification paperwork. When other recipients heard they got the scholarship, he still hadn't.

"I was just down but I always had hope," he said.

But then, one day at school he got a phone call.

"My mother called me and she said that I received something in the mail from the Gates Millennium and I told her to open it and it said congratulations, you have been selected," Martinez said. "So I rushed home during lunch and I received it and I just started laughing and just was like oh gosh I was so happy."

So now, it's off to Newman University for Martinez where he plans to study chemistry and pre-med to reach his goal of becoming a neurosurgeon.

"Whenever the road looks down, there's always hope for a better outcome which usually takes yourself and a really great support system which is needed in order to succeed in life," he said. "I'm just thankful for everybody who has helped me along the way."