22-year-old Samuel “Sam” Gil is not your average senior at McNeese State University.
Sam’s parents Nicole and Eric describe their son as an exceptional and intelligent young, man.
“It’s unbelievable just to think that one of your children could attain such a thing,” Eric said. “He’s a wonderful kid, even before that.”
Sam recently became a finalist for the Rhodes Scholarship, a prestigious competition of scholars from across the U.S. who all compete for a chance to study at The University of Oxford in England.
Sam’s mother Nicole said her son came up with a clever idea for the theme of his essay, which she believes helped to set him apart from other applicants.
“I taught him how to make gumbo, and everybody loves his gumbo,” Nicole said. “He drew an analogy between making a gumbo and the ingredients and comparing that to all the people that have contributed to making him who he is.”
Sam used the art of storytelling to combine his love for Louisiana tradition with his admiration for the people, places, and experiences that have helped to season his life so far.
“Gumbo perfectly describes what I’m doing and I have my mom’s hand-written recipe,” Sam said. “My gumbo is not, yet complete. It’s still cooking. It takes years to perfect a good gumbo and I look at my life very similarly.”
While Sam did not win the Rhodes Scholarship, he said he lives by one motto:
Nothing ventured is nothing gained.
The U.S. Rhodes Scholarship application is available every year in early July.