Prompt 1: Discuss the subjects in which you excel or have excelled. To what factors do you attribute your success?

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Ngoc Nhi Le

GMSP Class of 2006
Gates Millennium Scholars Application Essay

Prompt 1: Discuss the subjects in which you excel or have excelled. To what factors do you attribute your success?

In the past, social sciences appealed to me and I have discovered that the social sciences have been my most successful academic subject. Social sciences may seem to be merely a process of number and factual memorization. However, I’ve come to realize that it is a more intricate x process of analyzing the past for understanding of human nature. It is a process through which mistakes and achievements of the past help add to our understanding and success in the world today.

I’ve used my knowledge of the social sciences to advance my success in Model United Nations. The understanding of history has contributed to my success as a mock delegate from a foreign nation because I am able to analyze history and connect it to the context of current issues concerning the United Nations and the international community. Though I cannot possibly learn all there is to learn about the nation that I represent, an understanding of historical events and ideologies helps to enhance my understanding and representation of that nation.

Most of my success is the direct influence of my father. My father encouraged analytical reading of historical texts and current affairs. We would frequently sit and read articles and books together while he challenged me with questions that would require inference skills. When I was younger, he would open a Vietnamese magazine and have me read a news article to him. From there, I learned to read and write in Vietnamese and to love the complexities of the societies around me. From my father’s enforcement and encouragement of historical texts, I became very interested in social sciences. Perhaps it is in the subject we love the most that we learn the most.

Prompt 2: Discuss the subjects in which you had difficulty. What factors do you believe contributed to your difficulties? How have you dealt with them so they will not cause problems for you again? In what areas have you experienced the greatest improvement? What problem areas remain?

Growing up, I was a very timid and quiet child. Submerged among my peers and lost in the crowd, I felt comfortable and found myself most at home when the attention drifted far away from me. However, when teachers asked me to speak before the class or answer questions, apprehension flooded me as though I stood before hundreds of strangers. Before the class, my individual bonds of friendship to each and every person sitting in the room disappeared as apprehension controlled me and my voice shook with panic. This fear of public speaking came from my experiences during the first few years after arriving in America.

When I arrived in Georgia in 1994, I was only six years old. I did not know any English and it was very hard for me to adapt. After a few months of ESOL, my elementary school took me away from the comfort of diversity and placed me in a regular classroom among those who shared a common language. In the classroom, my accent and limited vocabulary discouraged my development of communication skills. I carried that fear with me to high school.
During my first semester of high school, I befriended with my teacher and mentor, Mrs. Ward. She frequently encouraged us to read aloud in class and to give presentations. Her encouragement and support helped me overcome my fear of speaking. I came to realize that my fear no longer resulted from my poor vocabulary and accent. I spoke English with the fluency of an American and my vocabulary matched that of my peers. My real fear came from several years of simulations and exaggerations in my mind. Mrs. Ward encouraged me to come out of my shell and, since, I’ve come very far from the timid six-year-old that I once was. Though I have never learned to rid of my apprehension, I now love the experience of publicly speaking with anyone and everyone before me because I realize that it matters not how great your discoveries and ideologies are if you cannot vocalize it and share it with those who never knew.
Prompt 6: Discuss your involvement in and contributions to a community near your home, school or elsewhere. Please select an experience different from the one you discussed in the previous question, even if this experience also involved leadership.  What did you accomplish?  How did this experience influence your goals?

Meadowcreek is a school where the minority is the majority. The typical stranger to our part of the neighborhood notices not the colorful murals of embracing unity within diversity, not the students painting over the graffiti, and definitely not the volunteers at the local elementary schools. They only see the different shades of yellow and brown and the graffiti beneath the fresh coats of paint. Perhaps that is why we feel a sense of hopelessness as though no one embraces our achievements nor acknowledges our existence except for their occasional referral to Meadowcreek as the worst school with the worst test scores and the worst sports program if any Gwinnett county school.

I’ve heard students at Meadowcreek say that drug and alcohol awareness at the school is a joke because none will pay attention much less learn from the underlying message. It angered me to see that they embraced the lies about Meadowcreek and wore it like a medal. People think that just because brown kids are not at the football game, then they must be out terrorizing the community and funding the drug trade. I wanted to prove to the students that their lack of interest in the prevention assemblies did not reflect their acceptance of drugs and alcohol.
At the beginning of my senior year, I was privileged to meet Laura Kohnke, the Volunteer Center advisor at Meadowcreek. She taught us the skills that would enable us to reach out to the community. A friend of mine, Tim Dodson, and I came to her and told her of our concern, stating that we wanted to bring back to Meadowcreek the interest in prevention and awareness. She supported and encouraged us to pursue our goal. After much research, we saw that Mother’s Against Drunk Driving (MADD) had an exceptional assembly specially directed towards teenagers. It incorporated popular media and true stories into a prevention and awareness presentation and I felt that that would appeal to the students. Unfortunately, we were discouraged seven-hundred-dollar price, seven hundred more than we could afford. However, Ms. Kohnke encouraged us to overcome the obstacle. She inspired us to call the Georgia chapter of MADD. All our efforts paid off and MADD offered the program at an exceptional cost of free!
With the program on its way, we rushed to the principal to get permission. Dr. Pringle was very enthusiastic and reserved the auditorium for the assembly. Within a week after we sent the invite list, the five hundred seats of the auditorium were booked!
When the assembly day came, I was very anxious because the teachers feared that popular media would be destructive. However, show time came and the seats filled. Even more surprising was the program. From the first song to the last inspirational story, the auditorium was chillingly silent except for the enthusiastic applause and occasional sniffles.
As they left the program, many red-eyed students approached Tim and me and thanked us. For weeks thereafter, students and teachers approached us with compliments, requesting that it be brought back for years to come. I realized that we had started a tradition and brought back the enthusiasm about prevention and awareness to Meadowcreek High School. What more, I realized for myself that a few students can truly make an impact in society. Because of the environment in which we were raised, students at Meadowcreek felt that this was not a society for the children of lower-income minority families therefore no one has tried to implement changes. We proved that they need not embrace the slanders of the majority. If we embrace our diversity and unify the minority as a driving force, then the minority will become a majority and the future of the great Melting Pot of America.
From my involvement in the Meadowcreek High School Volunteer Center, I’ve been inspired to one day work with the American Red Cross. The American Red Cross is an international organization entirely devoted to the welfare and betterment of the international community. Through various volunteering projects, I’ve come to realize that success is not solely the attainment of monetary possession. Success was the internal prosperity of mentality and sentiment. It was the maturation of the soul and the attainment of a sense of responsibility.

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These essay were prepared by NGOC NHI LE and are presented here in the form in which they were submitted as part of the Gates Millennium Scholars Program (GMSP) application during the 2005-2006 academic year. Please use these essays only as a guide. Reproduction of this content without proper citation is considered plagiarism.

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