Indian Springs student becomes Gates Scholar

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 13, 2008

By AMY GORDON / Staff Writer

As Kortnei Scott walks the halls of Atlanta’s Emory University as a freshman this fall, she’ll be thinking of a number of people who made her education possible — her family, her educators at Indian Springs School, and Bill Gates and Oprah Winfrey.

While Gates and Winfrey might not be benefactors for most college students, Scott is not like most college students.

First, Scott, who hopes to study biology at Emory, applied for the Gates Millennium Scholarship this past school year — a tough task, she said.

“One teacher nominated me and one recommended me,” Scott said. “I had to turn in seven different types of essays and give them my personal information, my community service, everything. It was meant to give them a general picture of who I was.”

The Gates Scholarship goes much farther than most scholarships. It pays for a student’s undergraduate, graduate and doctoral studies. That immediately made it a must-apply on Scott’s list, she said.

“I knew I was going to college and I didn’t want my parents to have to pay for it,” she said. “That was one of my goals.”

While Scott has other scholarships and grants, the Gates Scholarship will pay for the bulk of her schooling. At the beginning of May, Scott found out she had been selected to receive the funds.

“I screamed,” she said, laughing. “I was with my family so I just ran screaming through the halls.”

That was just the beginning of May, however. The rest of the month would bring other experiences as well.

On May 26, Scott was featured on the Oprah Winfrey show as an “O Ambassador,” or a student that has helped create change in a place that really needs it. Scott traveled to Kenya in August 2006 to help build a school in less than four weeks. The trip was financed by a scholarship through Winfrey’s foundation.

Scott said Oprah shared some words of wisdom she’ll always keep close to her heart.

“She said one thing that I will always believe is true,” Scott said. “When someone helps you, you should always help someone else.”

Those that know Scott say she is well on her way to making Oprah’s advice a reality.

“I’ve never really had a student work harder than Kortnei,” said Diane Sheppard, Scott’s Advanced Placement English teacher. “She’s incredibly responsible. She’s just remarkable in every single way. I can’t think of anyone who would deserve something like this more.”

Sheppard said Scott’s achievement would pay dividends not just for her, but for Indian Springs as well.

“We’ve had so many extraordinary students,” Sheppard said. “I guess what it says is we attract good students and we want to help them grow in individual abilities. I think Kortnei is an example of that.”

Scott said her drive to succeed comes from a simple desire to make the world better.

“I love community service. I just want to help people,” she said