Sequoyah High School
Sequoyah High School’s 2015 Gates Millennium Scholars are, from left: Billy Sunday, Payne Ummerteskee, Bailee Smith, Sadie Red Eagle and Tyler VonHolt.

Sequoyah High School Graduates Five Gates Scholars


Every year the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation awards 1,000 minority students, 150 of which are Native American, up to $250,000 in college scholarships. This year, five of those scholarships are going to seniors at Sequoyah High School in Tahlequah, Oklahoma.

Sequoyah’s 2015 Gates Millennium Scholars are Sadie Red Eagle, 18, of La Mesa, California; Tyler VonHolt, 18, and Payne Ummerteskee, 17, both of Muldrow; and Bailee Smith, 17, and Billy Sunday III, 19, both of Tahlequah.

“It is a tribute to the hard work and dedication shown by our students to be selected as Gates Millennium Scholars,” Sequoyah Schools’ Superintendent Leroy Qualls said in a press release. “Sequoyah is consistently one of the top schools in the nation in the number of Gates Millennium Scholarship recipients each year, which is something we take great pride in.”

Sequoyah High School has produced 63 Gates Scholars since 2002. According to the American Indian Graduate Center, which chooses American Indian recipients for the scholarship, Sequoyah is among the highest producers of Gates Scholars in the country every year.

“To be named a Gates Scholar feels really rewarding because I don’t have to worry about the price of college,” said Red Eagle, Otoe-Missouria, who will attend Dartmouth College and study political science, in a press release. “My family can’t afford to help pay for school, so I would be forced to pay everything out of pocket or take on thousands of dollars in student loans. I don’t have to worry about that now.”

“I wasn’t expecting to get it, so I’m extremely relieved,” said Ummerteskee, a Cherokee Nation citizen who will attend the University of Tulsa and major in pre-med and chemical engineering. “If I didn’t get it, I wasn’t going to be able to go to my first choice for college, because I didn’t have the money to pay for it. Gates allows me to attend the college I really want to go to.”

VonHolt, Cherokee, will attend Rogers State University and major in pre-med. Smith, Choctaw, will attend Northeastern State University and study elementary education. Sunday, Cherokee Nation, will attend the University of Hawaii and major in athletic training.

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