Dakota Merrival Wins Gates Millennium Scholarship

Every year the Gates Millennium program chooses 1,000 students and pays all their college expenses. This year Cobbler senior Dakota Merrival was named among them

By Cassie Knickrehm

Getting to go to college for free is every high schooler’s dream. For Dakota Merrival, a student at Central High School, that dream has become a reality. Merrival is one of 1000 students nationwide who received the Gates Millennium Scholarship this year. This scholarship was founded by Bill Gates and covers all tuition, room and board, and personal expenses from undergraduate studies through graduate or doctorate programs.

Merrival with his award-winning pen

The Gates Millennium scholarship is a needs-based scholarship for minority students around the country who have a GPA above a 3.3 on a 4.0 scale. This year 53,000 students applied for the award, with only 1,000 winning. To apply for this scholarship, applicants had to write eight separate, one thousand word essays, each about a different topic, that were judged by a panel of readers. Because Merrival is Native American, he also had to fill out a Tribal Eligibility form.

Merrival plans to use this scholarship to pursue bachelors and masters degrees in mechanical engineering at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. “Winning this award,” he said, “made me feel like a success. It showed me that my circumstances don’t define me, my choices do.”