Viangkaeo Lee was invited to become a Gateway Scholar during her junior year at Merced High School, but after attending a lunchtime meeting, didn’t know she was part of the program until glancing at her financial aid summary before her freshman year.
“I attended that first meeting, but never went back because I worked at the school’s cafeteria during lunch,” Lee said. “Being the first in my family to apply and go to a four-year university, I didn’t really have much guidance in my college application process and couldn’t really grasp the importance of resources like the Gateway Scholarship program.”
Lee — who graduated in May — made the most of her time at UC Merced. Lee was an undergraduate fellow in the NSF-CREST Center for Cellular and Biomolecular Machines (CCBM) research program, where she investigated the complex swarming behaviors of E. coli under a 3D environment. Through the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Center (UROC), Lee was awarded a research fellowship to conduct biomedical research on kidney and kidney-related diseases at the University of Alabama at Birmingham during the summer of 2018. She has also been a part of the Mercy Medical Center Merced Inpatient Volunteer Program, which provides opportunities for UC Merced students to gain clinical experiences by interacting and working directly with patients.
But it is her experience as a student ambassador and mentor for the Gateway Scholarship Program that stands out during her time at UC Merced.
“It gave me the opportunity to give back to a program that has supported me and my undergraduate career from day one,” Lee said. “The Gateway Scholarship listed on my financial aid summary wasn’t just any scholarship provided to any students; it was and is specifically for me. As a mentor, I made it a mission for me to ensure that my high school mentees knew exactly why and how the Gateway Scholarship Program is there for them.
“Gateway has supported me in ways that I can never be grateful enough for.”