Gregory Person, a recent Windermere Preparatory School graduate and UNCF Stem Scholar, is heading to Xavier University of Louisiana to begin his education in hopes of becoming a medical researcher.
WINDERMERE As one of 100 members nationwide of the United Negro College Fund’s inaugural STEM Scholars class, Windermere Preparatory School graduate Gregory Person is well on his way to starting his collegiate career.
UNCF, a minority education organization that supports students’ educational careers through scholarships and other programs, recently received a grant from the Fund II Foundation totaling $48 million. On July 28, it officially announced its first class of Fund II Foundation UNCF STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Scholars.
Of 2,300 total applicants for the STEM Scholars program, the 100 top-performing African-American high-school seniors nationwide received the coveted award, including seven in Florida. Person, a recent Windermere Prep graduate, is one of those seven.
As a STEM Scholar, Person, 18, will receive a total award package of up to $25,000 throughout his time at Xavier University of Louisiana, one of the UNCF-supported HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities). This includes scholarships and a stipend for a STEM internship over the next five years. The program also will provide continuous support in Person’s and other scholars’ academic success.
According to UNCF, African-Americans make up “less than 5% of the science and engineering workforce, and less than 1% of all tech startups.” Fund II Foundation and UNCF’s goal through this program is to “create a robust pipeline of African-American students well-prepared to have careers in the tech industry and to become the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs.”
“I found out about UNCF by searching for scholarships and going to different websites,” Person said. “My grandmother also knew about UNCF, and she found the application and I applied for it. It’s the first year that this program has started. Not only do we get the scholarship, but they’re also following us through four to five years, connecting us with other African-American scientists and building our networks so we can be successful in our careers.”
In high school, Person kept busy as a percussionist in marching band, in the concert band’s wind ensemble and as an active member of WPS’ Student Government Association. Additionally, he was senior class co-president.
Person will major in biology on the pre-med track while at Xavier University in hopes of becoming what he has dreamed about doing since middle school — a medical researcher, with a focus in diseases. He chose Xavier specifically for its science and medical programs.
“I was looking for a school that had a biology field and had a good record with bringing students to a higher level in the science field,” he said. “I picked Xavier because it has a great reputation of bringing African-Americans up, making them doctors and helping them be successful in passing medical school.”
Part of Person’s career decision stemmed from his mother, who died from myasthenia gravis, a chronic autoimmune neuromuscular disease that affects all the muscles and makes them weaker. According to the NIH, “the hallmark of myasthenia gravis is muscle weakness that increases during periods of activity and improves after periods of rest.” Although there are some treatments and therapies that are available, there is no known cure.
“I was building it up and decided in my middle- and high-school years to become a disease researcher,” he said. “Eventually, I would like to be a medical researcher, interested in diseases and virology. I would like to work for the Centers for Disease Control or the National Institutes of Health.”
BREAKING THE STATUS QUO
One of his biggest role models in the fields of science and medicine, Dr. Ben Carson, also made an impact in his decision to go into the medical field.
“He pioneered the method of splitting the Siamese twins, and (I admire) what he had to go through, how he had to build himself up and take the different risks he had to to get to that point,” Person said.
To help prepare himself for a career in the science industry, Person assisted in reviving the Science National Honor Society at the school and took the International Baccalaureate Program’s standard-level biology course, during which he learned about human anatomy, diseases and genetics, among other things. In fact, one of his main hopes in his decision to prepare for and enter the medical field is to have a positive impact on the world, since doctors and nurses are in such high demand.
“Not only is it a steady, sustainable job, there’s also an impact that can be made to help other people,” he said. “I hope to have an impact by showing that not all African-Americans are disadvantaged, by breaking the status quo and showing them there’s a higher standard for African Americans in the STEM field.”
The UNCF hopes its inaugural class of STEM Scholars will “set the bar in demonstrating that African-American students from various backgrounds who are rich in talent can excel at the highest levels in any of the nation’s colleges and universities they choose to attend.” Person is also hopeful that the education and support he receives from Xavier, Fund II and UNCF will enable him to excel and make a difference in the medical community.
“I’m humbled and thankful I got the scholarship and am able to attend the program,” he said. “I would like to thank Fund II Foundation and UNCF for giving me this opportunity to build up and have a successful launch forward in developing my career.”
About Fund II Foundation
Fund II aims to “preserve the African-American experience, counteract human-rights injustices, promote environmental conservation and education that will provide the healing experience of the outdoors, promote music education to nourish talent and the soul, and sustain American values.” (Source: fund2foundation.org)
The United Negro College Fund goes by the slogan, “A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste.” For more than seven decades, it has raised more than $4.5 billion and helped more than 430,000 students. (Source: UNCF.org)
Contact Danielle Hendrix at [email protected].