The sky’s the limit for two Orangeburg County seniors who recently won Gates Millennium scholarships that will pay for their education through college graduation.
Frederick Thompson from Orangeburg Consolidated School District Five and Deion Jamison from Orangeburg Consolidated School District Three were among 10 students across the state to be named 2013 Millennium Scholars. The scholarships are funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Thompson said he was awed at receiving the scholarship.
“I’m still trying to fathom that I got the scholarship – the fact that I competed against 54,000 people and only 1,000 of them got scholarships,” he said.
Now, he has the pleasant task of selecting a college.
“Before I got the scholarship, I had it nailed down,” he said. But now, he can look at schools that are more prestigious and expensive.
Thompson, who’s always been interested in science, says he wants to be an obstetrician-gynecologist.
“I just think it’s good to have a plan when you’re leaving high school,” he said. “I’m really fascinated that I would be bringing new life into the world.”
Thompson has made As and Bs throughout school and has participated in numerous extracurricular educational activities, including a summer science program at Voorhees College where he researched how landfills affect ground water.
He’s also taken part in Palmetto Boy’s State, the Hugh O’Brien Youth Leadership programs and the Relay for Life and Kidney walks.
English teacher Deborah Hailey said Thompson is gifted and talented, not only academically, but in leadership skills.
I was elated when I heard Frederick had received this award,” she said. “It didn’t surprise me because Frederick does exemplary work. He is an outstanding student.”
He’s also leader who encourages his friends, according to Hailey.
“He has a very close relationship with his friends and will assist them with assignments,” she said.
When friends are sick, he’ll take their assignments to them and urge them to complete their work on time, Hailey said.
He’s also truthful with his friends, she said. If he sees them doing something wrong, he’ll tell them, but he does it in a caring, compassionate way.
“Frederick always knew what he wanted to do. He had his goals set, and he’s moved toward that goal,” she said.
Thompson said his parents, especially his mother, have made him the young man he is today. He said his mom always encouraged him to get an education.
A lot of other people have given him help, he said.
“I’ve earned and acquired knowledge though teachers,” he said. “I was given these things ... and I need to give back.”
Thompson noted that there he’ll have to meet certain requirements to keep the scholarship, including maintaining a 3.0 average.
“They want you to challenge yourself,” he said. He’ll also have to be involved with community service.
“I’ve come this far and done this much,” he said. “I can accomplish more over the next four years.”
Jamison was in Columbia with his mother when he heard a student from Orangeburg had won one of the Gates scholarships.
“I said, ‘Mom, we have to go home,’” Jamison said. They returned home so he could check the mail.
“The walk to the mailbox was the longest walk I ever made,” he said. “To open the mailbox and see the envelope from Gates was overwhelming – all those feelings, I was unable to process all them. It was unreal.”
Like Thompson, Jamison has excellent grades. He’s also involved in community service and is a leader at Lake Marion High School and Technology Center.
“I currently have a 4.1 GPA,” he said. He’s worked with Amerigrad, a national dropout prevention program, but he said the community service he’s proudest of is a 30-hour workshop he did on the dangers of social media.
“I went to local middle schools and spoke several times at Lake Marion and talked to students about how to be safe in cyberspace,” he said.
Jamison said he owes his success to his grandmother.
“She has always taught me to stay humble and give back to my community. She encouraged me to do my very best in school,” he said.
A few years ago, she became very ill, and the family thought they were going to lose her, Jamison said.
“I promised her if she got well, I’d do better in school,” he said. “She’s still here, and I’m still keeping my side of the promise.”
Principal Rodney C. Zimmerman said Jamison stands out in a crowd because he’s a born leader who is able to get other students involved in the educational process.
Jamison is kind of shy, but he’s still outspoken, according to Zimmerman. As president of the student council, he’s able to make decisions when it’s necessary.
His winning the scholarship showed students how hard work and commitment pays off, Zimmerman said.
Jamison said he’s happy at the impact he’s having on his peers.
“After getting the scholarship, I’ve actually had other students come up to me and say, ‘In the years to come, I want to be the one to win the scholarship,’” Jamison said. “It’s an overwhelming feeling to know that I have such a positive impact on the other students.”
Jamison plans to enter Clemson University next fall, where he’ll major in computer information systems and minor in education. He may eventually become a teacher, he said.
He also wants to work with some major company like Microsoft or Apple, and pattern his career after that of Bill Gates, he said.
The poverty of students around him has influenced him, and he hopes to start up a scholarship program like the Gates Millennium program, according to Jamison.
In the meantime, he’s going “to be an ambassador for the Gates Millennium Scholarship program and my high school,” he said. “In the years to come, I’ll come back to raise more scholars from Lake Marion.”
Contact the writer: firstname.lastname@example.org or 803-533-5529.