Kagman High School college preparation teacher Gerard Van Gils hopes to increase the number of CNMI residents who can avail of post-secondary education through the Million Dollar Scholars.
Van Gils, who is the 2017 CNMI State Teacher of the Year, said the CNMI has a very unfortunate statistic with regards to residents with bachelor’s degrees.
Compared to the other 50 states across the country, the CNMI is dead last when it comes to citizens with bachelor’s degrees. According to the Department of Commerce, only about 14 percent of CNMI residents have a bachelor’s degree.
During a recent meeting of the Saipan Chamber of Commerce, Van Gils said his program, the Million Dollar Scholars, intends to send KHS students to college through scholarships and guidance.
“Part of my mission is I want to move that percentage up. I want more of our citizens to get post-high school education, whether it be in trade schools or universities. I want to create a generation of KHS students who are truly career and college-ready,” said Van Gils.
“We have about 23 or 25 students who will participate in this year’s [Million Dollar Scholars]. We hope to get big scholarships and send lots of kids to college,” he added.
Van Gils said the Million Dollar Scholars even goes as far as researching universities for students as well as providing useful tips and assistance.
“We’ve been working with our current class since their junior year in high school, so we are already about one year into working with these students. We prepare them, help them study for their SATs; give them test-taking tips; we also prepare them mentally and emotionally and research universities for them,” said Van Gils.
“Our [Million Dollar Scholars] will have another great year this year and I hope we get a lot more sponsorship and support like we did last year,” he added.
The Million Dollar Scholars Program was started by Van Gils and KHS principal Leila Staffler, in which money is raised for scholarships and various college expenses such as housing, clothing, etc.