Potomac High School’s principal, Robynne Prince, said graduating senior Victoria Mason was so confident of becoming a Gates Millennium Scholar that she turned down another scholarship that would have paid her four-year college tuition.
It wasn’t arrogance, Prince said, because that’s not in the nature of the mild-mannered, high-achieving Prince George’s County student.
“She just believed that she was getting this,” Prince said. “She wanted to get that golden ticket . . . and she got it.”
Mason, 18, of Oxon Hill, said she and her mother anxiously opened the letter from the Gates Foundation this month. “My heart was racing,” she said. “I was like, ‘Wow, I really got this.’ ”
She is one of 1,000 minority students nationwide who will receive the “good-through-graduation” scholarships to any college or university they choose.
Since 1999, the scholarship — which was originally funded with a $1 billion grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and is administered by the United Negro College Fund — has paid for more than 16,000 students to go to college, awarding more than $614 million for tuition, fees, books and housing. Students are chosen based on academic achievement and financial need.
Mason plans to attend George Mason University’s Honors College in the fall. She wants to study chemistry with a concentration in biochemistry, with a long-term dream of becoming a pediatrician or practicing family medicine.
“I want to take care of people,” said Mason, who has a 4.0 grade-point average and is a candidate to become her class’s valedictorian. “I want to contribute to making the health-care field better.”
Eartha Sanders, a social studies teacher who nominated Mason for the scholarship and serves as the school’s National Honor Society adviser, can see Mason doing exactly what she sets her mind to.
“Victoria strives for excellence in whatever she does,” Sanders said. “She is confident, determined and focused.”
Mason, who has an older sister and a younger sister, said she loves different genres of music, including R&B, pop and rap. After trips with her Upward Bound program, she has an affinity for live performances on Broadway and at the Kennedy Center. She also enjoys spending time shopping and hanging out with her friends and family.
Prince gave credit to Mason’s family for her accomplishment.
“They are not so well-off, but they are rich in compassion and a love of education,” Prince said.
Mason said her mother, who started college but didn’t finish, and her father, a college graduate, instilled in her the importance of a good education.
“They encouraged me to do excellent work and be in a position to achieve my goals,” Mason said.