George Ranch HS senior named Gates Scholar

May 05, 2015 | Community Relations

Ejeh Okorafor does not know what “it” will be. 

But he has no doubts he will one day achieve his goal of inventing something to benefit the world.

“Someone will have a problem,” the George Ranch High School senior said, “and I will fix it.”

Okorafor is a 2015 Gates Millennium Scholar. He is one of only 1,000 high schools students in the United States to have the entire cost of his education paid for through the program.

He is Lamar CISD’s sixth Gates Scholar and the first at George Ranch High School.

Established in 1999 with the goal of developing leaders for America’s future, the Gates Scholar program is funded by a $1.6 billion grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The program removes the financial barriers to education for high-performing, low-income students.

Okorafor said the Discovery Channel’s “How It’s Made” was his favorite show growing up. 

“I always wanted to know how things work,” he said.

Okorafor, who will attend the University of Texas in Austin majoring in electrical engineering, is active in the Technology Students Association at George Ranch HS. He has taken advantage of the Project Lead the Way Program, a project-based curriculum which gives students a chance to identify and solve problems. 

While he will major in the engineering field, he asked a Spanish teacher to nominate him for the Gates Scholarship. In addition to his skills in the science and math classrooms, Okorafor is finishing up AP Spanish V.

“I was his teacher for two years,” said Maria Kennett. “At these levels, students not only learn the language, but they learn there is a clear connection between cultures and their interests, in this case, engineering.

“I know that Ejeh will be a great engineer,” she continued, “but I believe that knowing a foreign language will make him an even better one, one who will be able to communicate and understand another culture.”

Okorafor said his long-range goal is to start his own company. After he finds the “it” he will invent. 

“Give me a problem to solve,” he said.

Ejeh is the son of Elizabeth and James Okorafor.

Gates Scholars will have their education paid for – undergraduate and certain graduate programs – in full. Continuing Gates Scholars may request funding for a graduate degree program in one of the following discipline areas: computer science, education, engineering, library science, mathematics, public health or science. 

The program is administered through the United Negro College Fund, which partners the American Indian Graduate Center Scholars, the Hispanic Scholarship Fund and the Asian & Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund to select and provide service to Gates Millennium Scholars.