by George Zamora

SOCORRO, N.M., Jan. 4, 2006 – Most small universities would be rightfully proud of having just one Gates Millennium Scholar among their student bodies, but New Mexico Tech is now in the enviable position of having two such named students on campus.

Tim Ramirez

Tim Ramirez, a junior majoring in mechanical engineering at the state-supported research university in Socorro, recently was informed he had been awarded a Gates Millennium Scholarship. The prestigious scholarship, which pays full tuition for its recipients at any university they choose to attend in the United States, is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and administered by the United Negro College Fund.

In addition, for more than a year now, Vanessa Barela also has been attending New Mexico Tech courtesy of, among other scholarships, the Gates Millennium Scholarship program. Barela is a Tech sophomore, almost a junior actually, who is majoring in environmental engineering, with a minor in technical communication.

Ramirez, the son of Ruben and Clara Ramirez of Cuba, N.M., is a graduate of Cuba High School. He currently serves as vice president for New Mexico Tech’s student chapter of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers and is a member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

Vanessa Barela

Barela, the daughter of Anna and Abelicio Joe Barela of Rio Rancho, N.M., is a graduate of Rio Rancho High School.

“My biggest achievement before receiving the Gates Millennium Scholarship was working for NASA through the space agency’s SHARP program,” Barela said. “Through this summer apprenticeship program, I worked on the Mars Land Rover Project and on helping develop a method of future colonization of Mars.”

The Gates Millennium Scholars program, established in 1999, awards scholarships to undergraduate students from underrepresented minority groups who demonstrate academic excellence and strong leadership skills.

To date, more than 9,000 African-American, American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian Pacific-Islander American, and Hispanic American students have been awarded Gates Millennium Scholarships through the $1 billion Gates Foundation initiative, which is scheduled to end in 2019.

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