Marco Nunez awarded Gates Millennium Scholarship

Senior is one of only 750 chosen in the United States


Senior Marco Nunez was one of 300 students chosen to receive the Gates Millennium Scholarship. Both Juan Ledesma and Jane Albano wrote letters of recommendation, as well as providing mentorship, which have helped Marco achieve his goals, which include attending Stanford.

For many students, the next step after high school is attending college. One of the main concerns is paying for college and avoiding debt. Imagine not having to worry about how you were going to pay for college because you got a full ride scholarship. For Marco Nunez, that dream is a reality. 

The Gates Millennium Scholarship only applies to students who are low-income and that are majoring in computer science, education, engineering, library science, and mathematics. It  provides scholarships to only 750 students who are top students in the United States. It helps pay off things that the student’s financial aid package doesn’t pay for like tuition, fees, books, living expenses. 

Nunez is one of this year’s valedictorians, along with Samuel Gil-Silva. For the past four years of his high school career he has been in the top 20 and has over a 4.0 GPA. With the incredible support of his teachers and mentors he was able to accomplish a huge milestone. Nunez will be attending his dream school Stanford this upcoming fall, majoring in astronautics and aeronautics. 

In the beginning of the school year, one of the teachers that impacted Marco was Sunil Patel, his 9th grade Avid teacher. Patel recommended Marco to apply for the Gates Millennium Scholarship because it would provide many benefits for him. “I insisted for Marco to apply for the scholarship because I saw potential in him. The money will be a help for him and his family as now he is  financially stable,” Patel said. Marco hesitated to apply because he knew he “was going to be competing with other valedictorians around the world.“ Also, he knew the last time that a student from Alisal High School received one was six years ago and he recognized that someone had a higher potential of getting the scholarship instead of him.

Part of the application process was getting two letters of recommendation. Nunez asked Juan Ledesma and Jane Albano to write his letters of recommendation. He felt comfortable and confident in asking his incredible teachers to write him the letters because they know him on a personal level and they would represent him through the thoughtful words that best represent him as the best candidate for the scholarship. 

Ledesma, Marco’s math teacher and also his mentor throughout high school, was amazed by Marco’s huge accomplishment. “I felt honored but nervous because I didn’t want to ruin the chance of him not getting the scholarship. I wrote from my heart and described what a humble and smart person he is,” Ledesma said. Ledesma knew that the scholarship would ease Marco’s life in many ways and he would be the first one in his family to attend college. 

On January 15th, Nunez submitted the scholarship application not knowing if he got accepted or rejected from the scholarship. It took him almost four months to hear if he got accepted to the program. The scholarship did not have a set amount of money given to him, but it will cover his tuition to Stanford, almost $90,000 a year according to Marco.

Marco received the news that he won the scholarship on April 20th. When he found out, the first person to know was Jane Albano, his 9th grade English teacher. “I was excited that Marco got accepted to his dream school and will be attending it this fall,” Albano said. “I got even more excited to know that he will be getting a full ride for all four years of his education through the scholarship that he won. He truly deserved to receive the scholarship, he has always strived for the best and his hard work paid off.“ 

The importance of the scholarship for Marco is that it is going to cover almost everything for his four years at Stanford. “It relieved all of the financial pressure from my family,” Nunez said. “It’s going to provide even more things, more opportunities, a better connection with the people that are a part of the program.” 

Some people might say Marco was lucky, but there’s a saying that “luck is when preparation meets opportunity.” Marco worked hard to put himself in a position to be lucky, and if he had never applied  for the scholarship he was going to miss that opportunity to get it. “I encourage everyone that can apply to apply. You have nothing to lose but everything to gain,” Nunez said.

Corrections were made on May 22, 2023: An earlier version of this article stated that Marco Nunez was one of 300 students to receive the Gates Millennium Scholarship this year. The program was increased this year to 750 students. Also, the amount the scholarship provided were listed as $12,785 to $1,000, but the actual amount Marco Nunez is receiving is almost $90,000 a year. Finally, it Marco was mistakenly quoted as saying that he would have a better connection with people in the “tech program” and it has been changed.