From SAIL to Gates Millennium Scholarship

Hayley Pratt-Stibich always wanted to go to college. But how to pay for it? That was the question.

Not anymore. Pratt-Stibich has been named a Gates Millennium Scholar for 2012, joining 1,000 students nationwide honored by the foundation started by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates. The scholar­ships fund tuition for talented, low-income minority students seeking undergraduate and graduate degrees.

The Springfield High School senior and Hispanic American – whose classmate, Alison Hinton, was also chosen – will study physics at the UO, capitalizing on university programs and support that make the dream of college a reality.

Pratt-Stibich, who has a 4.0 GPA, spent three years with the university’s Summer Academy to Inspire Learning program, or SAIL – a week-long camp that covers academic topics and gives low-income students a hands-on experience of what college life is like, including how to apply and pay for it.

The program convinced Pratt-Stibich that the UO will help her achieve her career goal – working with other scientists on the Large Hadron Collider project in Switzerland.

“(SAIL) made it more reasonable that I could be in college and go to the UO,” she said. “It was just so fun to actually meet the professors.”

Raghuveer Parthasarathy, an associate professor of physics, said Pratt-Stibich showed the makings of a scientist in SAIL classes.

“She was very enthusiastic and engaged in everything we were doing,” Parthasarathy said. “She asked really good questions, which is really good in physics and science in general.”

Bruce Blonigen, an economics professor and SAIL co-founder, said that while Pratt-Stibich has always planned on college, the program can be the difference for uncertain students. About 17 percent of Springfield High students go on to a four-year university, Blonigen said; for SAIL graduates, the number is about 35 percent.

Pratt-Stibich is also a member of the university’s PathwayOregon program, which ensures that academically qualified, lower–income Oregonians will have tuition and fees paid through federal, state and university funds.

Pratt-Stibich is also one of 13 new recipients of National Science Foundation-sponsored Scholarships for Oregon Scientists (SOS) awards next year. These students receive annual scholarship for up to $10,000 for two years; all SOS scholars are majoring in chemistry or physics, having arrived at the UO as freshmen or as transfers from Oregon community colleges.

Her scholarships and PathwayOregon participation ensure that Pratt-Stibich will have virtually the entire cost of her education covered. She joins roughly a half-dozen incoming or current UO students supported by the Gates foundation.

Above and beyond her interest in science, Pratt-Stibich is president of Springfield High’s SODA Club (Students Opposed to Drugs and Alcohol); vice president and co-founder of the SHS Knitting Club; and a member of the school choir. She is also a member of Planned Parenthood’s youth action council.

Matt Cooper