How a frustrating search for a scholarship turned into a life-changing opportunity

One afternoon, during his junior year at Samuel Hill’s Mississippi School for Math and Science, his parents told him they would not contribute to his college fund. Such news may be disastrous for some high school students, but Hill took it graciously.

“It wasn’t out of hatred,” he explains with a smile. “They knew my potential for success. They knew I was a hard worker and could afford my college. They can avoid the financial situation that hurts my three younger siblings. ”

His parents’ faith was not unfounded. Hill is now new to college at the University of Southern Mississippi, thanks in part Amazon Future Engineer Scholarship Program. In addition to the internship with Amazon, he will be rewarded up to $ 40,000 over four years.

Recently, Hill took a few minutes out of his studies to discuss the struggles of the scholarship hunter and the joys of life-changing opportunities. He also shared a bold idea aimed at helping his community.

EdSurge: Why did you apply for the Amazon Future Engineer Scholarship?

Hill: My search did not go well. I only got two scholarships when my mom said, “Hey, this is the $ 40,000 scholarship that’s right for you. I think you can do it.”

I was skeptical. I thought, “This is one of the biggest scholarships that few people get. What makes me special in any way? ”

But as I was reading my resume, I realized, “Wow, I’ve done a lot.” I participated in many computer science activities before college. I was a counselor and student teacher at a cyber security camp. I worked at a local STEM-based organization that helped the kids gain first-hand experience. I began to think that maybe I could do it.

I used to go to my English teacher for about two hours every day. We will review my resume and my essay for the scholarship. It was hard to be happy with my application, but I submitted it anyway.

In April or May, when the administration called me to the office, I began to worry. I thought, “Oh no, what did I do? I don’t think I did anything!” I went into the room, and I saw all the administration आणि and an Amazon box.It was a scholarship award letter!


In 2021, the community’s 100 computer science students received a 40,000 scholarship.

What does that award mean to you?

This is the most comfortable feeling of freedom. My college is fully paid and I will not be a financial burden on my parents. Now, even though my siblings didn’t get the scholarship, they are fine.

When I told my mother she was in disbelief. It was one of the proudest moments of my life. My dad just kept smiling. It was really cool to experience that.

In your application, you mentioned starting a cyber security academy. What’s that about

I’m so excited about that! One of the application questions was, “If your budget is unlimited, what would you create?” I thought, “What is missing in Mississippi that will benefit generations beyond me? What will send Mississippi in a different direction than where we are going now? “

My answer was the Cyber ​​Security Academy. Why not show the younger generation cybersecurity and start a new business in Mississippi? This will create many job options in STEM and computing for Mississippi residents.

Currently, we are the last in almost everything: education, healthcare, health level. This is really bad. My acquaintances say, “Dude, I can’t wait to get out of Mississippi.” “Well, why?” “Because there’s nothing to do here. There are no opportunities.” “Well, nothing will change if you leave.” Since no one else wants to do that, I will.

This is my thought process: start a new business in Mississippi that will make it a better place to live. Once we have that new stream of income, we can start making the changes we really need here. We can start funding more schools and nurture those smart minds in the classroom so that they don’t get hurt and feel that their only option is to work on a street chicken farm. Show them that they can become engineers. They can be astronauts. They can pilot the spaceship they always wanted to go into. Here are some really smart kids who lack exposure. I think the cyber security academy will really bring them out.

What plans do you have for your own future academic or professional?

I recently changed my head. I was originally an extensive student of computer science, but since coming here and meeting some professors and receiving counseling on my strengths and interests, I have turned to cybersecurity. I will certify along the way. All the certification tests I want to take are integrated into the curriculum.

Honestly, I don’t really know what I’ll do in the long run, but I have some things to do after I get out of college. This summer, I have an Amazon internship. From next year, I will be an intern for the FBI. This means I will be a full-time agent when I drop out of college or something else. I probably want to keep working for Amazon and really respect my skills for cybersecurity.

All I know is that I want to prepare for the opportunity to build this cybersecurity academy and bring STEM to Mississippi. I will do my best to be ready for it.

Amazon Any different advice for future engineering scholars?

I would tell other students to really try; I don’t know what to expect when I go there. I didn’t have the highest expectations when I started. And that confidence grew over time.

I was lucky because I had really good role models who encouraged me. But for those who don’t have it, you can do it – just trust yourself. I know I deal with it personally. You are worth the price. This is a great opportunity and it takes some time and effort. It completely changed my life.

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