naimonu-james_web.jpgDon’t call Naimonu James articulate, sweet or talented.

Her mother, Angelique Robertson, would prefer that you describe her as formidable, arduous and determined.

“Greatness is Naimonu’s benchmark,” she boasts of her daughter.

These descriptions are well deserved by the Pine Crest School senior, who graduates on Friday, May 21. This fall, James will enter Harvard University as Pine Crest’s first Gates Millennium Scholar.

As a Gates Millenium Scholar, Naimonu James’ entire college tuition will be covered. In addition to financial assistance, Gates

Millennium Scholars receive academic support, mentoring and leadership training.

The initiative is funded by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which seeks to increase the number of African Americans and other minorities who enter and complete undergraduate and graduate degree programs.

The United Negro College Fund administers the initiative.

“We are so proud of Naimonu,” Pine Crest President Dr. Lourdes Cowgill said. “This prestigious award recognizes the many fine qualities in Nai; she is strong, smart, and a shining example of dedication, hard work, and perseverance.”

James of Pompano Beach, plans to pursue a career in a scientific research. She said she hopes her declared Chemistry and Physics double major will provide ample opportunity to develop her interests in material or chemical engineering.

She said that Harvard beat out her other choices, including MIT, Princeton and Williams College.

“At Harvard, the fact that I could do lots of research and volunteer,” she said of the characteristics that made the Ivy League school her number-one choice.

She said she would like to continue to be a mentor for an organization called Breakthrough Fort Lauderdale that encourages and motivates minority students from under-privileged backgrounds to achieve academically from middle school through college.

Illuminating her interest in science, James was a member of Pine Crest’s cutting edge Science Research Team.

“I fell in love with science in high school,” she said. “My mother laid the framework for loving learning and setting goals.”

With her thirty-five years of teaching experience at Pine Crest, Barbara Gross worked with Naimonu on the research team and was her AP Biology teacher.

As early as her freshman year, Gross recalled, ”It was immediately obvious that she was a person of tremendous drive and independence.”

Gross also reminisced about how James took on her research projects with gusto.

“She always asked where to find answers and never how to solve problems,” Gross said. “She was always saying, ‘I want to know…’”

During one point in the school year, James didn’t perform her personal best on a test because of various other commitments.

She turned to Gross to go over her work outside of class.

“It was the longest, most wonderful discusion,” Gross said. “It very much demonstrated her desire to understand for the sake of understanding. That’s every teacher’s dream.”

James said she wants to show others that, “You can end the line of poverty, if you keep working hard.”

For more information about Pine Crest School, call 561-852-2801 or 954-492-4103 or visit

PHOTO: Naimonu James