West Catholic student wins Gates scholarship

JAD SLEIMAN / DAILY NEWS STAFF Sadiyah Malcom , a senior at West Catholic, is the latest student to win a Gates Millennium scholarship, which will fund her education through her doctoral studies.
JAD SLEIMAN / DAILY NEWS STAFF Sadiyah Malcom , a senior at West Catholic, is the latest student to win a Gates Millennium scholarship, which will fund her education through her doctoral studies.
Posted: April 25, 2013

A WEST PHILADELPHIA Catholic High School senior looked to a dark time in her past in her successful quest for a scholarship that pays tuition all the way through doctoral studies and puts her on a path toward a decidedly brighter future.

Sadiyah Malcom, 18, witnessed her niece drown in the Schuylkill six years ago. She wrote about the experience as part of her application to the Gates Millennium Scholars Program, and, very much to her surprise, she became the eighth West Catholic student to win, the program announced Tuesday.

"A lot of times when students face opposition like that, they are traumatized and need a lot of help," Malcom said. "I took it as something that made me feel more human and that made me want to do more for my community. It made me grow in faith and get closer to God."

The Southwest Philly native has since stocked a lengthy resume, including starting a nonprofit women's-empowerment group and being elected National Honor Society president by her peers.

She'll be among the first generation in her family to attend college when she enrolls in the honors program at Indiana University of Pennsylvania to study sociology this fall. She hopes to go on to Howard University for a doctorate in African-American studies.

Her mother, Karen, raising six kids on her own, wasn't sure how she'd send her star pupil to school before the Gates award letter came in the mail.

"Being a single parent, it's a struggle," said Karen, who came to Philly from Jamaica. "I told her not to worry. Whatever I have to do, we'll make it work."

Sister Ave Armstrong, the nun who taught Malcom her favorite subject, English, calls the Gates Scholarships "monumental" in the lives of West Catholic students.

"These children here are on the edge," she said. "On the edge of poverty, on the edge of the violence in the city. They're on the edge of fractured families."


On Twitter: @jad_sleiman

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