Inspired by her Ukrainian, African-American culture, Sumner High’s Gloria Kuzmenko-Latimer to study global affairs at Yale

June 17, 2022 - Sumner High School’s Gloria Kuzmenko-Latimer didn’t think she’d be chosen as a prestigious Gates Scholar, but when she went to check her email in April, there was the award letter.

“I really was not expecting it,” she admitted. 

The Gates Scholarship is a highly selective scholarship for “outstanding, minority, high school seniors from low-income households.” Each year, the scholarship is awarded to 300 students across the nation, and this year, Gloria is one of them. 

The accomplishments don’t stop there. Next fall, Gloria will attend Yale University, where she was offered a full-ride scholarship. She applied to over 20 colleges and was accepted at universities including Brown, Columbia and Sciences Po, a political science university in France. 

For Gloria, two big factors for choosing a college were financial support and opportunities to study international affairs. 

Gloria was homeschooled until seventh grade, when she enrolled at Sumner Middle School. She is half Ukrainian and half African-American and learned from a young age how language can shape people and culture. In her early years, she’d travel to Ukraine often to see family.

“I think that’s shaped my experience growing up,” she said. “I’m excited to be able to expand that a bit.”

She hopes to be able to return to Ukraine and to one day work and live abroad. She wants to find ways to help people, similar to her mother, Oksana, who is a paraeducator with the District and works often with Ukrainian and Russian students.

Getting to graduation this year was not without challenges. Impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and worries fueled by the ongoing war in Ukraine sometimes made things difficult for Gloria.

“Throughout her life she has faced many real challenges and adversity, including trying to finish high school as a full IB diploma candidate, while worrying constantly about her family in Ukraine,” SHS French Teacher and IB Coordinator Monica Swigart said about Gloria for the SHS Senior Showcase. “Gloria Kuzmenko-Latimer is an extremely hard-working, high-achieving person who throughout her high school career has sought opportunities to better herself through personal and academic experiences.” 

Gloria encourages students to take advantage of the resources available to them at school and not be afraid to try new things. She said she hopes her story inspires others to also pursue their goals — despite any adversity they may face. 

Congratulations, Gloria!

To read this story in Ukrainian, click here.