When Vareej Shah and William Snyder left high school to embark on furthering their educations at the University of Maryland and Bucknell University, respectively, it was unlikely they would be bound together by school any longer. However, their brilliance has them connected once again, as they were two of 24 scholars chosen to attend the University of Cambridge in England as graduates through the Gates Cambridge Scholarship. To them, it seems as unreal as it looks on paper.
The Gates Cambridge Scholarship is one of the most competitive of its kind. To have two people who attended the same high school receive it is unheard of.
“I think that that’s crazy - 24 people are chosen across the United States and two of them being from the same high school,” Shah said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the first time it’s happened.”
Funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the scholarship covers the cost of postgraduate fees, including tuition, accommodation, airfare and visa costs — all important benefits and a key reason the scholarship is so selective.
To Snyder and Shah, it all began in the same place: home. Severna Park has offered students a platform for success, however, the achievements aren’t what’s important. As Snyder said, “Severna Park is a very high-achieving school, very high-achieving area, but I think the important message isn’t that we're achieving these high-level things, but the importance of having that balance in your life to do what you love.”
Shah agrees. Even the opportunity to go abroad and study amongst some of the most prestigious people and facilities comes along with the acknowledgement of the bigger picture.
“I’ll have that to carry the balance with me to Cambridge - everyone around you is just brilliant - but also opening my eyes to see a new country and culture outside of the work I will be doing,” Shah said.
As for their personal goals, Snyder plans to focus on autistic studies involving treatments using brain mapping, from his major, neuroscience. Shah took multiple changes to his major to get to this point today, from starting with biomedical engineering, and eventually finding his way to public health and policy. That, he said, can be traced back to a Severna Park teacher.
“I remember one of my mentors at Severna Park was Mrs. [Theresa] Goldberg,” Shah said, “and when I was leaving for college as a biological engineering major, she said that I would excel with my skill set in public health and policy, and what do you know, three and a half years later, that is what I’m doing.”
The Gates Cambridge Scholarship provides a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The suspense, hard work, and dedication both Shah and Snyder exhibited in their education paid off to allow them to perfect their studies. They will continue their schooling this fall, across the pond.
As Shah said, “I was born in Maryland, I grew up in Maryland, and I go to college in Maryland, so I was excited to be able to go somewhere else and explore a different culture.”