Berry unlatches new gate of opportunity

by Jared Crain, Campus Carrier Deputy News Editor

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Berry alumna Mallory Fisher-Regan teaches at an elementary school for the summer program in Costa Rica in 2012.

Some years ago, former Berry Board of Trustees member H.G. Pattillo initiated a student scholarship program similar to the Gate of Opportunity, except abroad, in a developmental area of Costa Rica. From his early days of development in Costa Rica, Pattillo invested deeply in local schools and started a non-profit foundation. 

Not only did students from the U.S. venture abroad to Costa Rica in this program, but there was also a program for local students in Costa Rica to come to several colleges in the United States and in Georgia. Pattillo’s program took a hiatus for a number of years, until now.

This year, Berry has restarted the program established many years ago by Pattillo in a new light. Two students from Costa Rica, Orlando De la O Marchena and Rosa Brenes, currently reside year-round on campus through what is now named the International Gate of Opportunity Scholarship, a partner scholarship to the Gate of Opportunity.

Dean of Academic Services David Slade explained a new name for the scholarship was necessary since it has been revitalized.

“When we sought to restart the scholarship, we wanted to build it in a way that would last a long time,” Slade said. “We wanted to think of a creative way to restart the old scholarship program, but in a much more focused way.”

Slade emphasized that the aim of the international partner program, as the name implies, should be to promote the opportunity of community-driven growth both within the school and internationally with Costa Rica.

“We really wanted there to be a community, a context, for these students to come and join in,” Slade said.

Coordinator for the Gate of Opportunity Scholars Program Wendy Dahlgren agreed that community should be the primary priority and focus of the new framework for the program.

“It’s really important to ensure that the students from Costa Rica have community,” Dahlgren said. “That’s really what it’s all about.”

International Gate Scholar Orlando De la O Marchena explained that his experiences with the program have provided him with opportunities that he could not have found anywhere else.

“I have found a strong system that more than giving me a powerful support academically and economically, has embraced me as a member of this community that has become another family away from home,” De la O Marchena said. “It has opened me a new level of opportunities that thus far has allowed me to carve my life towards becoming a well-rounded professional.”

While the international scholarship program is limited for now to Costa Rican students, Slade hopes that the gate can be broadened to promote more widespread international growth in the future.

“Part of the reason to call it the International Gate of Opportunity Scholarship instead of the Costa Rica scholarship is that this is actually a model that can be repeated with other countries,” Slade said. “We called it this for the idea of having it as an open concept.”

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