Bushwick student wins Gates Millennium Scholarship

He'll attend USC to study broadcast journalism

August 26, 2013 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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Remember the name Tyreece Santana. He’s going to be famous someday. Years from now, he’s either going to be delivering the nightly news on television or winning an Oscar for his performance in a hit movie.

That’s a bold prediction. But Santana, an 18-year-old Bushwick resident, is one determined young man. And others have recognized his immense potential.

Santana, who recently graduated from Cardinal Hayes High School in the Bronx, has been named a Gates Millennium Scholar and will enter the University Of Southern California (USC) on a full scholarship to study broadcast journalism and acting. The Gates Millennium Scholar program, which is funded by a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, offers college scholarships to promising students in minority communities across the country.

News for those who live, work and play in Brooklyn and beyond

Hundreds of thousands of students apply for the scholarship each year, but only 1,000 receive the coveted award.

“It means the world to me that I won it,” Santana told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. “It’s a long process. You have to write about seven essays. So many people apply for it and get turned away. Sometimes, I feel like they picked my name out of a hat!” he said.

Hardly. Santana was a standout student at Cardinal Hayes High School. He was a member of the National Honor Society, the student council, and worked on the production crew at the school’s television station, called Channel H. He never missed a day of classes during all four years in high school and maintained a high grade point average. He was a member of the Student Ambassador program. His duties involved offering tours of the school building to visitors and mentoring younger students. “I always enjoy giving back,” he said.

Santana, who lives with his mother and two brothers, said he is willing to overcome any obstacle to pursue his education and make his dreams come true. Living in Bushwick, he would leave his house at 6 a.m. every morning and take a 90-minute subway ride to get to Cardinal Hayes High School in the Bronx. At the end of the school day, he would have to take another 90-minute subway ride home. He didn’t see it as a hardship. “Traveling every morning is an adventure. I’m glad I went through that,” he said.

Santana said he is grateful for the opportunity to go to Cardinal Hayes High School. The child of a single mother, he would not have been able afford the tuition if not for the Inner-City Scholarship Fund, a program of the Catholic Archdiocese of New York that provides tuition assistance for low-income students attending inner-city Catholic schools.

He is looking forward to attending USC. “California has always been a dream of mine. Being in college, in a school where I wanted to go, means everything to me. I want to take the reins of my life. I want to be a great communicator. That’s why I’m going to study broadcast journalism and acting,” he said.

Santana also plans to try out for the USC basketball team. “It’s a long shot, but I want to try,” he said.

Santana admits that while he’s in sunny southern California, he’ll miss his family back in Brooklyn. He’s going to be 3,000 miles away from his mother and brothers. “It’s going to be hard. But this is part of my understanding of how you have to grow up. You have to learn to stand on your own two feet. I need to go to California to find myself,” he said.

While Santana was surprised when he learned that he was named a Gates Millennium Scholar, his mother, Sande Morris, wasn’t. “I always knew he had potential. When he was a little boy, people used to come up to me and tell me they thought he was intellectually gifted,” she told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

“Even when he was a young child, he had a tremendous gift; not only for doing well in school, but for helping his classmates and his teachers. He helped out so much, one of his teachers used to call him her Little Helper. He’s a very giving person. His peers looked up to him,” Morris said.

As he grew up, Santana displayed a focus and determination, his mother said. “He has a head on his shoulders and he knows what he wants,” she said. She has always admired his public speaking skills. “He’s had to give a lot of speeches in school. And he never looks a bit nervous,” she said.

“I get nervous, but I don’t show it,” Santana said. “It’s how you funnel the nervousness. I take the nervousness and I work with it and enjoy the experience,” he said.

Morris said she will miss her son. “He’s going to be on the other side of the country. But I have to let him go,” she said. “He’s going to make his mother proud. It brings tears to my eyes when I think about it,” she said.



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