Bear River senior becomes semifinalist for national scholarship |

Bear River senior becomes semifinalist for national scholarship

Bear River High School Senior Grace Billingsley became a Coca-Cola scholars semifinalist in November. She is the only student from Nevada County to reach that level for the national scholarship competition.
Submitted photo by Grace Billingsley

Every so often the National Academy of Engineering establishes grand challenges it deems crucial for humanity to tackle.

Announced in 2008, the problems fell into categories like sustainability, health, security and the “joy of living.”

Bear River High School senior Grace Billingsley has familiarized herself with these issues. She hopes her academic and professional life is dedicated to building affordable housing or constructing biomedical technology that prevents Alzheimer’s, dementia or muscular sclerosis.

She also wants to create infrastructure that doesn’t emit carbon.

“Sustainable architecture — that’s something that I really like,” she said.

Billingsley wrote about these things in her October application to the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation.

On Nov. 18, she discovered she is a semifinalist candidate for the national scholarship. Billingsley is the only student from Nevada County to reach this level.


Each year, 150 scholarships of $20,000 each are distributed to American high school students, according to the foundation’s website. Over $73 million in scholarship money has been awarded since 1989.

This year, almost 1,900 of over 93,000 applicants became semifinalists for the competition. The next cuts to 250 students will be made in January, before the 150 winners are nominated in March.

Billingsley, a cross country and track runner at Bear River, has been interested in civil engineering since the fifth grade, she said. She likes how one can take raw materials and construct something grand.

She hopes to attend Arizona State University’s honors college, which would cover 80 percent of her tuition, she said. Coca-Cola’s $20,000 would cover the rest.

With the money, she hopes to solve problems suggested by the National Academy of Engineering committee and help women in the science, technology, engineering and math fields. (Billingsley herself said she was dissuaded from entering the engineering field because of her gender.)

Despite the scale of problems faced in the 21st century — climate change most notably being labeled an “existential threat” by the United Nations — the Bear River senior is optimistic the issue can be resolved. But she said people will need to cooperate and collaborate on levels both large and small to get there.

“I do think it is possible,” she said, “but the biggest problem right now is everyone needs to be on the same wavelength.”

To contact Staff Writer Sam Corey email or call 530-477-4219.

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