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HMSA Students Receive Gates Millennium Scholarship

HMSA Students

Hawthorne Math and Science Academy students Isaac Gorgy, left, and Johann Webb have been awarded the prestigious Gates Millennium Scholorship. The teens maintained above 4.0 GPA while taking eight AP courses. Brad Graverson/Daily Breeze Staff Photographer


By Megan Barnes, Daily Breeze

Isaac Gorgy and Johann Webb are the first graduates of tiny Hawthorne Math and Science Academy to win the prestigious Gates Millennium Scholarship, and they’ll also be the last.

This is the final year that generous scholarships funded by a $1.6 billion gift from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation 16 years ago were awarded to 1,000 diverse high school seniors across the country.

The 18-year-old Hawthorne residents have maintained 4.0 grade-point averages while taking just about every Advanced Placement course the 550-student high school has to offer, all while juggling activities and volunteering commitments both on and off campus.

All the hard work — and a rigorous application process requiring eight personal essays — was well worth it, the teens said, weeks after their names were announced with 14 other South Bay students in the final class of Gates Millennium Scholars.

The other awardees are graduating from Hawthorne High School, Port of Los Angeles High School in San Pedro, California Academy of Mathematics and Science in Carson, Environmental Charter High School in Lawndale, Carson High School, Lawndale High School, Inglewood High School, Mira Costa High School in Manhattan Beach and Animo Charter and Animo Leadership high schools in Inglewood.

Gorgy, who was born in Cairo, Egypt, and moved to Hawthorne with his family when he was 4 years old, said the scholarship will “immensely” help him achieve his dream of becoming a pediatrician or general physician.

“The No. 1 thing people are concerned about with college students is debt, so when it takes that away, it makes your full focus on your goal,” Gorgy said. “That’s my only focus. I don’t need to worry about paying this or getting a job or anything like that, so I think that’s incredible.”

Gorgy will attend UCLA to study biology and then plans to enroll in med school.

Webb, a Hawthorne native, will study engineering at UC San Diego and wants to attend grad school at USC. He would like to work in aerospace.

“One of my friends has an internship at SpaceX and it sounds like the coolest thing,” he said, wearing a hooded sweatshirt with a logo he designed for the senior class, and a lanyard with the name of his beach punk band, The Reefs.

“Space has always been my favorite subject in science, and to work in the field and try to help explore the final frontier would be my dream.”

Gorgy said he will miss writing for the school’s newspaper, Aviator News, where he is editor in chief.

Both he and Webb are active members of the school’s Key Club and student government. The humble teens each chimed in to fill in each other’s accomplishments when speaking about their time at Hawthorne Math and Science Academy.

They credited encouraging teachers with helping them work toward earning the scholarships and said the school’s process of letting students gradually take on more AP courses over the years benefitted them.

“They kind of design it that way so you’re not taking too much where you’re just completely exhausted, so you get accustomed to a workload,” Gorgy said.

Principal Esau Berumen said 98 percent of the school’s 119 graduates this year will enroll in college in the fall, with 60 percent going to four-year universities.

“They’re great kids, they’re involved, dedicated and always willing to help,” Berumen said of Gorgy and Webb, noting that he has gotten to know their families over the years since their older sisters attended the school.

Many Hawthorne Math and Science Academy students qualify for free or reduced lunch, he said.

“It’s very exciting for them to be able to say, ‘I’m going off to college and I don’t need to worry about the finances,’ which is very scary for a lot of students,” Berumen said. “They worked hard.”