Gates Millennium Scholar Selects Oglethorpe

009Oglethorpe 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.

Gates-Millennium-Scholars-logoSo 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.”

Oglethorpe University Ranked Among Top 50 U.S. Liberal Arts Colleges

Independent news magazine Washington Monthly has released its annual list of Top 100 Liberal Arts Colleges in the nation, and Oglethorpe University comes in at #49!

The magazine rates and ranks colleges in three different categories: social mobility (recruiting and graduating low-income students), research (producing cutting-edge scholarship and PhDs) and service (encouraging students to give something back to their community). Within the service category, OU was ranked #9 for providing a high number of staff supporting community service, the number of academic courses that incorporate service, and for providing scholarships for community service.

Members of the incoming class sort and pack book donations at Books for Africa.

Oglethorpe provides numerous volunteer opportunities for its students throughout the year. Most recently, 350  freshman and first-year students participated in the annual Orientation Day of Service alongside faculty, staff and community volunteers. The group was spread out across Atlanta, volunteering with nine different nonprofit organizations. Five groups’ efforts went to environmental stewardship, lending a hand to Grant Park Conservacy, TREES Atlanta, Southwest Atlanta Growers Cooperative, Crop Mob Atlanta and Park Pride. Three groups volunteered at nonprofits that focus on homelessness and hunger issues: Furniture Bank of Metro Atlanta, Senior Citizen Services of Atlanta and the Atlanta Community Food Bank.  And, one group of 80 students helped to sort and pack books at Books for Africa.

Oglethorpe freshmen assemble beds at the Furniture Bank of Metro Atlanta.

Earlier this month, Oglethorpe also was named to Forbes magazine’s list of top colleges in the nation, and for six consecutive years has been named to the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll, the highest federal recognition a college or university can receive for its commitment to volunteering, service-learning, and civic engagement.

Oglethorpe Takes Up White House Campus Challenge

This year Oglethorpe University will participate in President Obama’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge, which challenges more than 300  colleges and universities around the country to promote intentional interfaith dialogue and community service. Oglethorpe will focus specifically on the issues of health and hunger.

To work toward meeting the challenge, OU students and staff created COEXIST Oglethorpe, an effort open to all Oglethorpe students, faculty, staff, and alumni who are interested in this interfaith initiative. Staff from the offices of Admission, Campus Life, and Center for Civic Engagement have met with students Clair Carter ’12, Jimmy Comerford ’13, Emily Sharfstein ’14, Awet Woldegebriel ’14, Zach Robinson ’15 and Ruwa Romman ’15 throughout the summer to pave the road for the next two semesters.

“COEXIST helps us create a culture of understanding and in doing so, allows us to reach out to the community and work towards progress in health and hunger,” said incoming freshman and committee member Zach Robinson ’15.

Heather Staniszewski ’02, assistant director of the Center for Civic Engagement, recalls that when she first started working at Oglethorpe, she was impressed with “the Interfaith Council and collaboration between faith groups to keep the dialogue open and ongoing.”  She joined COEXIST Oglethorpe because it “gives [her] a chance to work with students and fellow OU staff members of different faiths to not only educate the community, but educate [each other].”

The fall semester’s inaugural event, to be held September 11, 2011 in Emerson Student Center, will combine service projects with an educational interfaith dialogue. The day will consist of three different service projects including a healthy nonperishable food drive, a blood drive from 1:00-6:00 p.m. hosted by the American Red Cross, and an opportunity to write letters to soldiers and veterans. From 2:00-4:00 p.m. a panel of various community faith leaders will answer questions and lead discussions with participants.

Please direct any questions or interest in volunteering for these events to the Center for Civic Engagement staff via email at hstan@oglethorpe.edu or call 404-504-1978.  We hope to see you in Emerson on Sunday, September 11.