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An incoming University of Louisiana at Lafayette freshman is joining the Class of 2024 with help from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Michael Jayden King is among 300 recipients of the Gates Scholarship, which is supported through a grant from the foundation. The scholarship is awarded to outstanding minority high school seniors.

King, who graduated from Pineville High School in May, is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in political science at UL Lafayette. He learned about the Gates Scholarship from his high school guidance counselor.

“I applied because it was such a great opportunity. It is so gratifying to receive the award. Being one of 300 is astounding to me – I still do not think I fully grasp it. It finally feels like keeping my eyes in the books the entirety of high school is paying off,” King said.

His counselor at Pineville High was Vallery T. Albritton. She is a 1986 graduate of the University of Southwestern Louisiana, now UL Lafayette.

Albritton said she first met King when he transferred to Pineville High at the start of his junior year from the Louisiana School for Math, Sciences and the Arts, a magnet high school in Natchitoches for academically gifted students.

“He fit right in with our students and faculty. He just has this aura about him that says, ‘Get to know me and you'll love me!’ He came to us with an outstanding GPA, and continued his academic success in the challenging classes we placed him in.”

Albritton continued: “Jayden is a go-getter. I’m surprised that he sleeps – if he does. He was all over the place at school, worked after he left school, and came back for whatever extracurricular events he could fit in. He also volunteered countless hours at the local library. He does all this because he genuinely cares about people and knows that he can make a positive impact.”

King said he’s looking forward to a similarly busy schedule at UL Lafayette. Though he had other options, he said he chose the University because he “felt at home on the campus. The faculty and staff I met made me believe it is the place for me. No other school did that.”

“I’m looking forward to focusing in on my major, but also to branching out and experiencing everything college has to offer, such as maybe studying abroad or working on research with professors,” he added.

And, King is already looking beyond the next four years. “After college, I definitely want to go into the public administration field, with hopes of one day being a congressman or maybe something ever higher.”

King is the son of Tamara King of Pineville.

The Gates Scholarship was first presented in 2018. It is awarded to 300 students per year and is administered by the Hispanic Scholarship Fund.

In addition to tuition support, the scholarship ensures students “have access to resources and services they may need, from their first to last day of classes, through graduation and the transition into their chosen careers,” according to a Gates Foundation press release.

Photo caption: UL Lafayette political science major Michael Jayden King (Photo courtesy of Micheal Jayden King)