KHS teacher to share ‘Million Dollar Scholar’ program


Kagman High School teacher Gerard van Gils, center, stands between his students Coreen Ramon, left, and Ana Lieto after they attended the weekly meeting of the Rotary Club of Saipan last Tuesday at the Giovanni’s restaurant at the Hyatt Regency Saipan. (Jon Perez)

Kagman High School teacher Gerard van Gils said he is willing to share information on how other junior and high schools in the CNMI could set up their own “Million Dollar Scholar” program, which aims to prepare senior students in earning a college education.

van Gils along with Ana Lieto and Coreen Ramon, two of KHS’ top 25 students, spoke to Rotary Club of Saipan members last Tuesday at Hyatt Regency Saipan’s Giovanni’s restaurant.

He said that KHS principal Leila Staffler saw the need of helping seniors apply to universities in the U.S. mainland and also transition to college life. They took KHS’ top 25 students and put them in a college preparatory class.

van Gils said they wrote to the parents of the 25 students and 21 agreed with their program.

“Kagman is the only public high school to offer a college preparatory class and the only one to offer a summer SAT. They take advanced classes like AP English, Japanese 2, calculus, and college preparation,” said van Gils.

van Gils added each of the 21 students has applied to at least two major universities, took the SATs twice, and took a summer SAT preparation course. Twenty of them applied for the Gates Millenium Scholarship, 20 with the Asian/Pacific Islander Scholarship, and 16 at the QuestBridge Match Scholarship.

“We are willing to share how we started the program. We want other schools to also have their own college preparatory classes where they help the seniors go to college,” van Gils said.

van Gils added what the program needs now are partners and advocates to help them achieve their goal of raising $1 million for the school’s first batch of scholars.

“Good ideas don’t need advertisements, what it needs are advocates. We are looking for people who can help Ana and Coreen, who both want to go to college,” said van Gils,

Lieto and Ramon, who both have GPAs of not lower than 3.70, read parts of the essays they submitted as part of a school project. Both got accepted to five universities in the mainland and are also the first to go to college in their respective families.

Lieto, a Gates Millenium Scholar, got accepted to Eastern Oregon University, Grand Canyon University, Washington State University, Dixie State University, and Chaminade University, while Ramon got accepted to Dixie State, Eastern Oregon, Utah State, University of Wyoming, and University of Colorado.

Jon Perez | Reporter
Jon Perez began his writing career as a sports reporter in the Philippines where he has covered local and international events. He became a news writer when he joined media network ABS-CBN. He joined the weekly DAWN, University of the East’s student newspaper, while in college.

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