Oglethorpe freshman Lila Siwakoti ’17 says that he’s thankful for many things. He should also be very proud of his accomplishments.
Lila was born in a refugee camp in Nepal and immigrated to the U.S. in 2009, thanks to a sponsorship from the International Rescue Committee. Founded in 1933 at the request of Albert Einstein, the nonprofit responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises and offers lifesaving care and life-changing assistance to refugees forced to flee from war or disaster.
“Refugee life is not like a regular life,” says Lila. “You live at home in fear. You have food and medical shortages.” Adapting to a foreign culture and language was rough for him, he says. But over time, Lila and his family settled in to life in the U.S. and he says he is thankful to live here. Lila eventually became fluent enough in English to take AP and Honors classes and credits his religion, Hinduism, with helping him do well in school.
So well, in fact, that Lila was awarded a Gates Millennium Scholarship, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The scholarship is awarded to outstanding minority students with significant financial need. This year’s applicant pool for the scholarship was record-breaking, according to Lila. More than 54,000 students applied but only 1,000 are selected each year. To put this into perspective, less than 2% of applicants were accepted this year.
To qualify, students must demonstrate leadership abilities and academic distinction. They must also have two nominations for the scholarship—one for academics and one recommending the student for their leadership qualities. Lila graduated with a 3.9 GPA from Clarkston High School and actively participated in his community through volunteer work.
Lila chose to attend Oglethorpe because of Oglethorpe’s small class sizes. He likes the fact that you are able to visit professors during office hours and they know who you are rather than be a nameless member of the class. Plus, his family is important to him and the campus’s proximity allows him to remain close to them. He considers the scholarship a “blessing” and is currently deliberating on majoring in computer science and minoring in economics.
As part of the scholarship requirements, Lila participates as an ambassador for the Gates Millenium Scholarship program and is currently helping students from his alma mater with the application process. Ultimately, Lila wants to go back to Nepal or Africa and volunteer: “My long term goal is to help people.”