Two St. Francis College Students Fulfill the Promise of The Gates Scholarship
While waiting for a train outside Union Station in Washington D.C., Nidia Perlata '18 and K-Andrea Limol '19 decided they wanted to explore the city... they never guessed that three years later they would be sharing an apartment in Brooklyn and working towards undergraduate degrees at St. Francis College.
The two young woman were in Washington for a leadership conference for the Class of 2014 Gates Scholars, funded through an educational scholarship program set up by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
K-Andrea says they each had several hours to wait for their trains after the conference was over, but no one else wanted to leave the station to explore the city, except for Nidia.
"We both thought, 'We're in D.C.! What's wrong with these people?!'" said Limol, a political science major who wants to go to graduate school to become an environmental engineer.
The two asked friends to watch their suitcases while they visited Capitol Hill, the Washington Monument, and the White House. They barely made it back in time.
"A conductor had to literally re-open the doors for me to get on the train," said Nidia, also a political science major with an economics minor.
After that day together, the two had a little contact on Facebook, but no lasting connection.
Students apply to The Gates Millennium Scholarship when they are high school seniors. It is unique among scholarship programs in that it covers full tuition, plus room and board, and adds a stipend for books and other costs. It even pays for graduate programs in selected fields.
The two of them came to St. Francis College on very different paths. Nidia was born in the United States, but raised in the Dominican Republic. She came back to New York in ninth grade and had to re-learn English. St. Francis College was an easy choice for her.
K-Andrea was born in the Federated States of Micronesia, which became independent from the United States in 1986. Through a compact, its citizens can live, work, and study in the U.S. without visas. She first attended another college in New York, then studied for a time in Alaska before transferring to St. Francis.
They hadn't spoken for two years when a Facebook anniversary notification showed a photo of the two of them from D.C. on Nidia's timeline.
"I noticed that it said K-Andrea went to St. Francis and I couldn't believe it," said Nidia.
She contacted K-Andrea and the two have struck up a close friendship. In addition to sharing many of the same classes, they pooled their stipend money to find an apartment together and recently visited Peralta's family in the Dominican Republic.
Both say the scholarship is life changing.
"I feel like I would be at a state school and working a job," said Nidia. "With the stipend, I can focus on my studies."
"We're always talking about how blessed we are. I don't think we'd even be in school without the scholarship," added K-Andrea.
There is no requirement for service to maintain the scholarship, but giving back is strongly encouraged and each woman plans to make that part of their career.
Nidia was inspired by a trip to Nicaragua in high school as well as her experiences in the Dominican Republic and the U.S. to become an elected official. After she graduates from St. Francis College in May, she plans to attend graduate school for public policy.
K-Andrea wants to return to Micronesia after graduate school and use her knowledge to tackle the problems that global warming is already bringing to her island home.
St. Francis College, founded in 1859 by the Franciscan Brothers of Brooklyn, is located in Brooklyn Heights, N.Y. Since its founding, the College has pursued its Franciscan mission to provide an affordable, high-quality education to students from New York City's five boroughs and beyond.
St. Francis College, 180 Remsen Street, Brooklyn Heights, NY 11201