Skip To Main Content

A Mt. Diablo HS senior receives prestigious Gates Scholarship 2nd year in a row!

A Mt. Diablo HS senior receives prestigious Gates Scholarship 2nd year in a row!
Elizabeth Mangelsdorf

Theresa Brandt

Josemit Rodriguez is the second MDHS student to earn a Gates Scholarship in 2 years - Tori (now Solaris) Umaña Almaraz earned it last year.

Mt. Diablo High School and the Mt. Diablo Unified School District are proud to announce that senior Josemit Rodriguez has received a prestigious “full ride” Gates Scholarship, which will enable him to attend UC Berkeley at no cost starting in the fall. Josemit plans to double major in aerospace or mechanical engineering as well as business management, with the goal of becoming a tech CEO or helping to create rockets, trains or other technology that helps make the world a better place.

“I want to build and contribute to society in some way or form,” Josemit said. “The way I would love to do that and that I think I am best at doing that is through engineering.” His interest in engineering was sparked by Ygnacio Valley HS engineering teacher Joseph Alvarico, who invited him to join the YVHS Project 212 after-school robotics club when he was a sophomore because MDHS did not have a robotics club. The following year, as a junior, Josemit formed a robotics club at MDHS under the tutelage of math and engineering teacher Kyle Kondo (highlighted under District News here). “I worked closely with him,” Josemit said of Kondo. “He would always say, ‘Do things in engineering for a greater purpose and not just for selfish reasons.’ He basically made me humble.”

Josemit is the second MDHS student to earn a rare Gates Scholarship in two years. Last year, Tori Umaña Almaraz, whose first name is now Solaris, earned the scholarship and is studying math at USC with a goal of becoming a teacher. Josemit and Solaris took Physics together last year and now he is reaching out to them to find out what to expect as he begins to network with other Gates scholars. "It’s so exciting to see success stories from Mt. Diablo HS," Solaris said. "I’m just so happy for him and I can’t wait to see if there are more Gates Scholars in the future." The "highly selective" Gates Scholarship is awarded to "outstanding, minority, high school seniors from low-income households" who are "exceptional student leaders, with the intent of helping them realize their maximum potential," according to the website. This year, Josemit said 750 students were selected out of approximately 53,000 applicants, based on an application, essays, letters of recommendation and a personal interview. "Even as a 10th grader, he had a passion for education that I rarely encounter in the student body," said Kondo, who wrote a letter of recommendation for Josemit. "The following year, Josemit was the driving force in reviving the robotics program post-pandemic at MDHS. The most impressive thing to me, and why I nominated him, was that I have never seen a student with such resilience and determination to push through setbacks. Nothing would come easy to Josemit, but he would consistently approach all obstacles and challenges with a healthy level of tenacity. These small repeated events would add up over time to help shape Josemit's intellect and belief in the power of hard work."

Josemit, whose father is from Mexico and whose mother is from Honduras, is a first-generation Latino student who has helped out with his father's gardening business since he was 15. While working part-time and commuting to school from Bay Point and Pittsburg, he has achieved a weighted GPA of about 4.5. He has taken 10 AP classes at MDHS and took Anthropology at UC Berkeley last summer through the Early Academic Outreach Program ( EAOP). He has been recognized as a National Society of High School Scholars member, is on the Principal’s Honor Roll, received the Pisces-McCloy Scholarship and a Rossmoor Scholarship, earned a CalSAC California Afterschool & Summer Challenge Certificate for advocating at the state capitol in 2023, and was named a Student of the Month in 2021. He is also active in the school's Social Justice Club and newspaper. Josemit stepped down from leading the school's robotics club this year so that new leaders could prepare to continue the club after he leaves, but he continued to participate in the club, which he believes is his legacy to the school. "When I created the robotics program at the school, I had the goal of giving something to this community, to basically leave something for the students here," he said. 

In his four years at MDHS, Josemit said he has grown as a student and as a person. As a freshman and sophomore, he said he was introverted, nervous and insecure about talking to other people, worrying about what they thought of him. But he realized that to be successful in school and in life, he would need to speak up. "I became more confident talking to people over time," he said. "It’s a skill you develop, it’s something that takes time. That happens by putting yourself out there and not stopping. I knew that I couldn’t stay in my personal bubble forever. I wouldn’t be able to achieve the life goals I have if I didn’t put myself out there in the world and make connections with people." This summer, he will make new connections with other Gates Scholars at a conference in Arizona. Solaris plans to connect with him there, if possible. Both said they believe that their Gates Scholarships will help bring positive attention to Mt. Diablo HS. "Everyone here wants to make changes for the better for the school - teachers, staff and students - to basically show the world that Mt. Diablo HS is capable of great things," Josemit said. "And the Gates Scholarship is one of the many ways that we are trying to get that message across."

Josemit Rodriguez

Mt. Diablo HS senior Josemit Rodriguez (right) stands proudly with Principal Dr. Markell McCain in front of the school sign holding a UC Berkeley pennant for the university he will attend in the fall, after learning he was awarded a prestigious Gates Scholarship.