Chloe Diggs of North County High School and Christopher Umanzor of Old Mill High School have been named winners of prestigious Gates Millennium Scholarships that will pay the bulk of their expenses for undergraduate, graduate school, and post-graduate education, as well as related costs.

GatesMS15Diggs, a student in North County’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) program, and Umanzor, a student in Old Mill High School’s International Baccalaureate (IB) program, are the sixth and seventh county students in the last four years to claim one of the 1,000 scholarships awarded to seniors across the nation annually by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. In Maryland, 15 students received Gates Millennium Scholarships this year.

Gates Millennium Scholarships can be used to pursue degrees in any undergraduate major at any accredited college or university. Continuing Gates Scholars can also request funding for a graduate degree program in certain areas of study.

Diggs was visiting Georgetown University on the same weekend that she found out she had won a Gates scholarship. Because of her experiences that weekend, she has decided to attend Georgetown this fall and will major in government. She is also considering adding environmental science as a second major. She plans to eventually get a doctorate, and hopes to do that without any interruptions between advancing degrees.

“I don’t want to let too many life events get in the way of my education because I’ve worked too hard to get here,” Diggs said. “It feels so good not to have to stress about the finances anymore.”

In 2014, Diggs paired with classmate Jack Andraka to win the gold medal and $50,000 in prize money in the Siemens We Can Change the World Challenge, which encourages student teams to identify an environmental issue that has global impact and provide a viable, replicable solution. Diggs and Andraka created a microfluidic biosensor to monitor water contaminants rapidly, inexpensively, and easily. They also developed an inexpensive water filter made from plastic water bottles and amino acids.

Umanzor, whose family is from El Salvador, is undecided on what he will study in college. He will attend either Princeton, Penn, or Notre Dame.

“What getting the Gates has meant to me has been understanding that sacrifices are never without their returns,” Umanzor said. “It has meant realizing that, despite being faced with situations of disadvantage, there are always opportunities to improve upon oneself and affect the community. This entire experience has been so humbling, and I hope I’ve become someone who can truly represent my family in El Salvador.”

The goal of the Gates Millennium Scholars Program is to promote academic excellence and to provide an opportunity for outstanding minority students with significant financial need to reach their highest potential by:

  • Increasing the representation of these target groups of students in the disciplines of computer science, education, engineering, library science, mathematics, public health, and the sciences; and
  • Providing seamless support from undergraduate through doctoral programs.

For more information on the Gates Millennium Scholars, visit