Over the past week, we at the Bicycle Coalition have been quietly celebrating the accomplishment of Cadence Youth Cycling athlete Allen Williams.
Williams was just selected as a Gates Millennium Scholar, a prestigious grant funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, designed to promote academic excellence and provide an opportunity for outstanding minority students to reach their highest potential.
Williams was one of just 1,000 students across the United States to earn the award – out of more than 54,000 who applied. The award will help this young athlete and academic pay for his continued schooling.
We spoke to Allen about the effect Cadence Youth Cycling has had on his high school career. Check out that conversation below.
How long have you been a member of Cadence Youth Cycling and what have you learned from it?
I have been a Cadence athlete for four years. Since 8th grade, Cadence has had a substantial impact on my mindset and goals. For one, it’s taught me the significance of hard work.
One obstacle that prevents people from working hard is that they do not see or feel the results from whatever efforts that they are applying to their goals. As a CYC athlete, I always saw the results of my hard work. My improved athleticism was the manifestation of my efforts. My resilient mindset that I applied to all other aspects of my life like my academics was another development that I acquired as a Cadence athlete.
How did you first hear about the Gates Millennium Scholarship?
I first heard about the Gates Millennium Scholarship in 10th Grade. I heard that a senior in my school’s class of 2014 won this very prestigious scholarship. The fact that he won it was not what motivated me to pursue this scholarship, though. What drew me to this scholarship was that in my school’s history, he was the 1st student to ever win this scholarship. Being that he was an African-American male and went to the same school as me, I believed that I could get that scholarship just like he did. One more factor that contributed to me wanting to apply for this scholarship was my desire to set a new standard for males at my school. If I left any impact on my school it would be that males below me would expect more out of themselves and ideally be more ambitious to achieve greater goals.
I believed that with my strong writing skills that I acquired from being a journalist and with all of the free time I would have over winter break that I could take on this challenge. So, when winter break came I decided to create a schedule where the first day of break I would complete an essay then I would take the second day I would revise the essay. The third day I would complete an essay, the fourth I would revise it. I kept this process going until I completed every essay and when I returned to school, my counselor double-checked my essays before I submitted them.
How did you feel when you found out you got it?
I remember the days before I was notified that I was a Gates Scholar vividly. After submitting the additional materials to the application in March, when I was notified that I was a Finalist, I found out that in mid-April was when I would find out if I was a Scholar or not. So, when mid-April came I constantly checked my application to see if I won. After getting tired of checking, I began to see people popping up all over with their huge Gates Millennium packages in the mail with notifications that they won. I did not receive a package, so I began to think that I wasn’t chosen.
I was in Chipotle when I first got the email notification that I won. As I was reading the email, all of the anxiety that I felt during that week was leaving my body and a great sense of relief replaced it. That relief particularly stemmed from the idea that I will not have any financial worries in college nor will my pursuit of a post-secondary education have a financial strain on my family. As for where I’ll be attending college, after two visits and weighing out the pros and cons, I have decided to commit to University of Virginia’s class of 2020.
Do you think your experience in CYC helped you in being selected as a Gates Millennium Scholar?
CYC played a vital role in me being selected as a Gates Scholar. Actually, I wrote a whole essay on CYC and the skills that I learned from being a cyclist. CYC gave me the valuable leadership and volunteer experience that scholarship committees like the Gates Millennium program are looking for. Without being a CYC athlete, I would not even have the material to write about to complete the application. For that, I am extremely grateful for this organization for allowing me to obtain such a prestigious scholarship.