Like virtually every high school senior, 18-year-old Landon Finley is looking forward to graduation. The South Oak Cliff student has won multiple scholarships, and has set his sights on attending Texas A&M University at College Station where he says his older brother, a former athlete and important role model, is in his second year and really loves the school and its rich traditions.
Number three in his class of 250, Landon recently learned he is one of seven Dallas ISD seniors selected to receive the prestigious Gates Millennium Scholarship. The scholarship will cover all college-related costs at the university or college of their choice through graduate school. Thanks to the Gates scholarship and several others, this vice president of his senior class and captain of the varsity football team says he is eagerly looking forward to college where he will focus 100 percent on study versus playing sports and plans to major in accounting.
A mention of Landon’s name draws smiles from his counselor of the last three years, Jennifer Simon, who describes the soft-spoken Finley as diligent, focused and mature. “He’s one who always takes care to cross his t’s and dot his i’s,” said Simon. Raised by a single father who Simon says is always the loudest cheerleader at Finley’s football games, Finley calls the loss of his mother at three one of the biggest obstacles he’s had to overcome.
“I grew up angry at the world but as I continued to grow, I started looking at it as a blessing, having a mother who was the valedictorian of her high school, and ambitious in furthering her education,” reflects Finley. “I saw it as my opportunity to honor her memory.”
Following are some other thoughts from this outstanding high school senior.
What is the proudest accomplishment of your school career?
The Gates scholarship is one of the greatest accolades I could have. To have that title and be recognized as one of the students that he acknowledges is a great accomplishment. I’ve dreamed of it since last year when I learned that this scholarship was available. Our school’s valedictorian won the scholarship last year. Since he won it, I’ve dreamed of winning it.
The application is very tedious. You have to write eight essays of 1,000 words and complete a tedious application. They ask about everything in your life.
What advice would you give to an incoming ninth-grader?
I would tell them first to not give in to peer pressure, which is everywhere, no matter what you attend high school. Second, I would advise them to take (AP) advanced placement and pre-AP classes. Those will enhance your problem-solving skills, challenge you, improve your study skills and get you ready for college. In spite of the increased difficulty of AP classes, it’s worth it. You have to be determined, and it’s a challenge. If you accept the challenge your ambition should be to strive for the best. Those AP classes help you strive for the best and help you to become the best. This school year alone, I’ve taken AP government, economics, calculus and English classes.
What have you learned in school that will stay with you the rest of your life?
With the AP classes, I’ve had to do a lot of studying to stay on top of my classes. In doing so, I’ve had to endure a lot of after-hours and spend lots of time studying outside of classes. Even with winning the (Gates) scholarship, I had to put in a lot of extra hours to complete the application. I think having the habit of going the extra mile will be helpful in college.
What are you most looking forward to after graduation?
I’m most looking forward to my second internship. One of the scholarships I received this year is the Alpha Epsilon Education Foundation scholarship. With that scholarship I received a mentor who works at Morgan Stanley. The summer before my senior year, I worked at Grant Thornton, a Dallas accounting firm and I learned about the basics of auditing and accounting. With this second internship, I will work with someone who advises accounting firms so I hope to go deeper into the field.
What advice would you give a student who wants to compete for scholarships?
I would advise them to come to the (ASP) Academic Success Program office. This is the number one place that will help you apply for scholarships. I would say ‘Put in your work. You can’t get lazy your senior year.’ I just won a Ford scholarship. I think they just didn’t get a lot of applications. I would tell students to not get lazy their senior year because you can lose focus if you get lazy, which can cause you to lose scholarships you could have had.