STEVENS COUNTY, Wash.— Only 1,000 students received Gates Millennium Scholarships nationwide and three of them came from Wellpinit High School.
More than 62,000 people across the country applied for the scholarship. James Best, Brodie Ford and Nathan Ayala were all students at Wellpinit High School and were all awarded full rides.
Best was a student athlete with big dreams.
"I'm either going to study psychology or computer science,” said Best.
Best and his friends, Ford and Ayala, could choose to attend any four-year university they wanted.
"I was just filled with joy-- it was a great honor,” said Best.
“It just means the world to me to have my college paid for," said Ayala. “If I didn't get the scholarship I wouldn't have the chance to go to my dream place."
The scholarship was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It was geared toward high performing, low-income minority students.
The three Wellpinit High School standouts were members of the Colville Tribe and attended school on the Spokane Indian Reservation.
"They are just that amazing. They work hard at everything they do,” said track coach Jane Swiatek.
The students said they spent months working on the essays for their applications. The students maintained a 3.6 GPA or higher.
Best would be the first in his family to attend college.
Ayala planned to pursue a degree in dentistry. He said he hoped his story encourages others to go after their dreams.
"My family has wanted me to go to college. I wanted to make them proud. With this scholarship, I think I made them proud,” said Ayala.