Gates scholar: Silverton High graduate Luis Morales selected for honor

July 2016 Posted in People, School
Luis Morales

Luis Morales

By Kristine Thomas

Luis Morales,  one of the valedictorians from the Silverton High School Class of 2016, has become the first Silverton graduate to be awarded a Gates Millennium Scholarship.

More than 53,000 2016 high school seniors applied for the program funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Only 1,000, or 2 percent, were chosen.  Luis is one of 23 Oregon recipients. He plans to attend the University of Oregon in the fall.

His goal is to become an orthodontist. If he continues to meet the Gates criteria, his entire education will be paid through the program – from bachelor’s degree to  professional certification.

A humble and polite young man, Luis works at Subway in the Woodburn. He plans to study chemistry and business administration at Oregon. His high school activities included health occupations, FBLA, National Honor Society, Red Cross club, Habitat for Humanity and tennis.

“This scholarship is not about me,” Luis said. “I have to give the credit to my family for their support and their encouragement.”

Growing up in Mount Angel, he is the son of Ramiro Morales and Ofelia Villarreal. His siblings are Narda, 25; Juana, 23; Ramiro, 21; Eduardo, 15 and Samuel, 1.

From kindergarten through eighth grade, he attended schools in Mount Angel. When he was in sixth-grade, he remembers his sister, Juana, told him that he needed to challenge himself.

“She told me if my long term goal was to be an orthodontist, that I needed to go to Silverton High because it had a health occupations class,” Luis said. He added he turned to Juana when he needed a pep talk or encouragement.

“She has always believed in me and helped me achieve my goals,” he said.

Luis’ dad works for Wilco in Mount Angel. His mom stays home to take care of his youngest brother.

“Our parents told us that they came to America for their children because they wanted us to have better opportunities,” Luis said. “My parents told us that America is a nation of dreams. But to achieve our dreams we had to work hard. They encouraged us to focus on our academics.”

Since he was in middle school, he knew he wanted to apply for a Gates scholarship. And he knew if he didn’t receive scholarships, his dreams of attending a four-year college would not be possible. He applied in early January. It was mid-April when he received the news by “snail mail.”

“When I saw the fat envelope, I knew I had received it. When I opened the letter, it was like the best Christmas present and I started crying and my mom started crying,” he said. They shared the news with his father and siblings.

“My mom told me that all my years of hard work had paid off,” he said. “I told my parents that they motivated me to work this hard. My parents have sacrificed so much for their children. Getting this scholarship is life changing for me.”

Ramiro Morales, wearing an OSU Beavers t-shirt, was waiting for his son to finish the interview. Laughing, Luis teased his dad, saying it’s about time to put away that shirt and get one from U of O.

Giving his son a bear hug and wiping away tears, the elder Morales shared how extremely proud he is of his son.

When he and his wife first came to the U.S., they worked in the fields picking grapes, strawberries and blueberries.

“Having Luis receive this scholarship is a dream,” Ramiro Morales said. “I feel so blessed for him to have received this. It shows hard work pays off.”

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