Past Awardees

2021 Scholarship Recipients

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Natalie Kiesel

Interdisciplinary Studies

Natalie Kiesel is in the process of completing her Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies  she is concentrating in Social Entrepreneurship. Natalie's interests are related to mindfulness, consciousness, and well-being. Natalie plans to do a graduate project related to well-being promotion through utilizing a variety of wellness activities. Natalie's end-goal is to create a nonprofit organization that increases the well-being of the community through facilitating community garden volunteer shifts and group meditations.

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Bita Khoshhal

Epidemiology

Bita is a Master of Public Health in Epidemiology student at George Mason University. She graduated with a bachelor's degree in biology from the University of Virginia and has worked in various sectors of the healthcare industry. During the pandemic she worked at the Fairfax County Health Department as a Case and Contact Interviewer, working to limit the spread of COVID-19 in schools and daycares across the country as well as Fairfax and Falls Church City.

 

Currently, she is an intern at the EPA and a graduate research assistant at Mason, conducting studies with a focus on environmental exposures, substance use behaviors and epidemiological methods. In her free time, she volunteers with the Virginia Medical Reserve Corp. Bita holds a deep passion for healthcare and hopes that her work will create communities, where every person has the opportunity to be healthy, safe, thriving, and achieving their full potential.

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Sumita Chopra

Education

My interest in education originates back to India where I completed my master's in journalism and mass communication. In the field of education, I started as a lecturer teaching undergraduates and graduate students. As the years passed I was fascinated with the profession and being an educator gave me immense satisfaction as I felt connected to the community. I am most interested in Special Education-General Curriculum for the students with mild disabilities and have chosen this as my area of focus.

 

I am very excited to join the Special Education-General Curriculum program at George Mason.

George Mason University

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Shahrzad Maftoun

Information Technology

I am an undergraduate at George Mason University in Information Technology.

 

I am from Iran and I have a bachelor’s degree in pure mathematics from my country. I was working at Bu-Ali Sina University as an educational expert in the education department. At the same time, I was a mathematics tutor at the university and a high school teacher. After immigrating to the U.S. I pursued an education at NOVA and graduated from there and shortly after started at George Mason University where I want to complete my education in IT and hopefully find a full-time job. 

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Shawal Tariq

Nursing

My undergraduate degree is in neuroscience with a minor in psychology provided me an understanding of the health and human sciences and has granted me the ability to understand disease and the human condition to a great extent. This passion combined with my experience in healthcare related activities has allowed me to make the decision of pursuing a career in nursing. These activities nurtured a matured sense of gratuity in myself, and a desire to use my privilege to heal others.

 

The healthcare setting in particular has drawn my attention, as healthcare is a field dedicated to healing. I plan on healing through a career in Nursing, where I can directly participate in the healing process of individuals with physical and health ailments.

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Chansopheak Ly

Information Technology

I was born and raised in Cambodia. I immigrated to the U.S. to pursue an education to obtain a bachelor’s degree in Information Technology (IT).

 

I currently attend George Mason University as I’m pursuing a degree in IT with a concentration in cyber security.

 

My goal is to become a cyber security expert where I can change contribute back to the community to prevent the rise of cyberattacks. 

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Sarmat Khattak

Information Technology

I am originally from Pakistan. I completed my bachelor’s at George Mason University in 2018. After working in the legal field for about two years, I decided to pursue a Master in Applied Information Technology concentration in IT Management.

 

I am currently enrolled in a Master's Degree at George Mason University where I also work. I expect to graduate in May 2022 and this scholarship will provide the financial support I need to continue my education.

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Diem Vo

Biology

Diem is a first-generation college student at George Mason University pursuing a degree in Biology and then a medical degree specializing in Dermatology. Diem has been on the Dean’s list for all of her academic career and is expected to graduate with Summa Cumme Laude this Spring 2022.

 

Currently she is a volunteer at the Virginia Medical Reserve Corps and a trained listener for mental health and anxiety. In her spare time, she enjoys dashing through the dough by making pastries to give to family and friends. This also led to her work with the Vietnamese Red Cross, which is where she fundraises for underprivileged children and families in Vietnam. As one of four daughters in her family, Diem hopes to serve as a role model for young women who want a career in medicine.

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Karol Severichs

Marketing

Graduating from college doesn’t just mean a degree to me, it means I can provide a better future for my two kids. Since graduating high school in 2012, college wasn’t the path I chose but instead submerged myself in the Hospitality industry having worked front of the house positions as well and most recently as a private dining assistant. While in this position, I saw the potential in myself to succeed in the world, but I knew that I couldn’t get ahead with just experience. A higher education was the best way to achieve this and as I’m now in my senior year and about to graduate, I feel extremely grateful that I’m able to apply my experience in the Hospitality industry towards my degree in Marketing as a student at George Mason. I’m working hard to be able to accomplish goals that will allow me to rejoin the workforce as a professional with the knowledge of a higher education. I’m very grateful for the help extended to achieve my ambitions. I hope that one day my boys see all my hard work and are proud of me.

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Kellie Rae Arduini

Engineering

I went on to Westfield High School in Chantilly, VA where I lettered in field hockey, basketball, and baseball (as a manager of the team). During my senior year, I was awarded the title of All District and All Region in field hockey. I graduated Cum Laude in 2008, and continued my athletic career at Christopher Newport University (CNU).

 

I am now pursuing an associate’s degree in engineering at Northern Virginia Community College. The intent of this associate’s degree is to broaden my skillset, advance my career, and hopefully contribute to the field of engineering for the DoD in overall research, development, and implementation.

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Mariama Swarray

Nursing

I am an immigrant from Sierra Leone. In 2019, I graduated from NOVA and transferred to George Mason University. Over the years, I volunteered at a senior center, the emergency department at a hospital and the Medical Reserve Corps while juggling school, work and family life.

 

In 2020, I was accepted in the GMU nursing program. As I strive to impact people’s lives positively, I learned the essence of being selfless. My goal is to work with the National Health Service Corps, Peace Corps, and other health service organizations that provide care for people with limited access to health care.

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Aung Htun

Business Administration

I am from Myanmar (Burma). I am currently a MBA student in George Mason University pursuing a masters degree in business administration. I received my Bachelor of Science degree from George Mason University.

 

I serve in a Myanmar community by volunteering my time at the Mary Yap Charity Foundation. Mary Yap Foundation is a non-profit organization which help orphans get an education and financial support in Myanmar. This scholarship will give me the opportunity not only to pursue higher education but also continue to give back to my country and set good example for youths.

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Asmaie Qualal

Data Science

I was born in Morocco. My dream was to immigrate to the U.S. and graduate from one of the best universities. I immigrated to the U.S. in 2012, where I worked full time as a pharmacy technician while attending school.

 

In 2018, I graduated from Northern Virginia Community College and then transferred to George Mason University where I am pursuing a degree in data science and data analysis.

2020 Scholarship Recipients

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Carolina Medrano

Education

Carolina grew up in Arlington, VA and is a first generation Salvadorian American.  She is a single mother, currently works in the Arlington Public Schools as the supervisor of an after school program and attends George Mason full time. 

 

She is pursuing a career in Education with a concentration in school counseling and plans to give back to the Arlington community in which she grew up and loves through working in the Arlington County Public School system.  She desires to create an environment where all students feel empowered and valued thereby helping them to reach their potential in life.

Masters in Education with a concentration in School Counseling.

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Jennifer Vasquez

Psychology

Jennifer is pursuing a Masters in Social Work because she desires to have a direct impact on the community and people’s lives. 

 

Her volunteer work at the Loudoun County Jail impacted her so greatly that she decided to continue to work within that setting. 

 

Her goal after graduation is to work in a jail setting providing resources,  referrals, and services to those incarcerated.

Masters in Social Work.

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Cathy Yoo

Accounting

Cathy is the daughter of an immigrant family and had to put her education on hold to help her family through some financial difficulties.  She took charge of the family business and was able to support her family and her siblings’ education.  She earned an associate degree while running the business and then worked at a CPA firm to pay off her tuition. 

 

All these experiences moved her toward a desire to obtain an Accounting degree.  She attends school full time and works part-time.  She plans to work at a consulting firm in their Accounting Department upon completion of her degree.

Masters in Accounting.

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Sarah Haskell

Social Work

Sarah’s desire is to work with older adults with dementia and memory loss. She realized this passion when she was hired as a caregiver and Registered Medication Aide at an assisted living facility. She developed relationships with the residents and their families and became passionate about advocating for her residents. 

 

She works full time, attends school full time and works as an unpaid intern part time.

Masters in Social Work.

2019 Scholarship Recipients

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Melissa Carbajal

Kinesiology

Melissa is a veteran of the United States Marine Corps.  She served four years and is now pursuing her dream of opening a gym with her twin sister.  She plans to graduate GMU this December with a Bachelor’s Degree in Kinesiology.  One of six children raised by a single mother, she is determined to make her dream a reality.

George Mason University

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Bindu Bista Dhami

Nursing

Bindu emigrated from Nepal in 2016.  She had received a Diploma in General Medicine and completed a clinical practicum at Seti Zonal Hospital in Nepal. Due to financial difficulties, she could not continue nursing studies and began working Health Posts throughout Nepal.  Her passion for nursing brought her to the United States to pursue her dream.  She is working hard to obtain her Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing while supporting her family in Nepal.  Her goal is to become a critical care Nurse Practitioner and provide health care to marginalized people.

George Mason University

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Dimple Jamine Oliva

Nursing

Jamine was born and raised in the Philippines where poverty is one of the biggest problems.  Her passion for nursing began at a young age when she had to care for her sick grandfather and mother.  While her mother was hospitalized, Jamine was struck by how compassionate and professional the nurses were.  She decided she wanted to be a nurse so she could bring empathy, support, and unparalleled health care to the sick.  Once she obtains her degree, she hopes to work as a hospital nurse full time.

George Mason University

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Cariza Anna Opana

Liberal Arts

Cariza is pursing a degree in Liberal Arts. Cariza began her college career in Manila, Philippines where she grew up.  Unfortunately, anxiety and depression caused her to drop out and work in various industries to get by.  When her family moved to the United States, she decided to return to school and earn a college degree.  Her dream is to finish her Bachelor’s Degree in the US and return to the Philippines to obtain a Masters degree.  She hopes that she will be able to raise awareness of mental health in her home country and fight the stigma it has there.  She has published her first collection of poetry and prose where she talks of her battle with depression and anxiety.  She donates a part of the proceeds of the book to organizations in the Philippines.  Her desire is to do more by starting organizations in the Philippines to support those people with mental health issues and start the necessary conversations to wipe away the negative stigma.

George Mason University

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Ana Vasquez Veliz

Nursing

Ana is a single mother of 2 boys currently pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Nursing.  She plans to continue onto a Master’s degree program.  Her interest in nursing began at a young age when, her mother was becoming a Home Care Aid and would bring home her school books for Ana to translate and read to her Mom.  When Ana had her first son, she was so comforted by the nurses and impressed that they provided not only medical care, but also mental support and compassion. Ana wanted to be able to provide this type of support for others in their most vulnerable moments.  As a Latina, Ana plans to focus on the Latin community educating them on health-related topics.

George Mason University

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Ellaha Momand

Biochemistry

Ellaha is currently pursuing a degree in Biochemistry with plans to become a medical doctor – either a heart specialist or cardiac surgeon.  

 

“As a student, taking care of family and also pursuing academic goals, this scholarship is really important. It lessens the financial stress and burden to achieve my educational goals while living in this high-cost area.”

George Mason University

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Rebekah Reaves

Interior Design

​Rebekah is a single mother of 3 special needs children.  She was a dedicated Army wife for 15 years but is now divorced and pursuing a degree in Interior Design.  Aged 40 and homeless with just a high school education, she is pursuing a degree in Interior Design.  Once completed she plans to move to Washington State to be near her family and attend a 4 year University to complete her Bachelor’s degree and obtain accreditations to be competitive in the Interior Design market

​​

George Mason University

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Sothearinh Thach

Information Technology

Sothearinh has been working since she was 14 years old.  She realized in her early 20’s that education was the key to improving herself and advancing.  She is pursuing a degree in Information Technology because there is such a demand in this area for IT professionals.  Her dream is to finish at NVCC with a 4.0 GPA and transfer to a 4 year college and work towards a Masters degree in Information Technology.​

George Mason University

2018 Scholarship Recipients

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Bernice Anyang

Accounting

"Becoming a manager or being part of the executive team in the top 4 accounting firms or the top financial institutions is part of my long-term goal.  This [goal] will help me be able to interact with people and make a positive impact in life, creating opportunities to enrich the society.  Receiving this scholarship will boost my self-esteem, knowing full well I am not only completing an important task, but also realizing that I am a step closer in achieving my career goals." ​

George Mason University

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Fatima Wehelie 

Nursing

"I would like to express my sincere gratitude. I am honored to receive this award from the Great Falls Friends and Neighbors Scholarship Fund, Inc. This scholarship will aid in my educational needs and my future career goals of becoming a nurse. From my own first-hand experience in the emergency room to the experiences of my family and friends, nurses have served a vital role in our lives, especially in times of great difficulty. I want to be there for my future patients, just as wonderful nurses were there for me. I left my full-time job to pursue my nursing degree and felt the financial stress immediately. This scholarship will truly help me fulfill my career goals. Thank you for investing my future!"​

George Mason University

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Regina O'Brien

Health

"George Mason University refers to me as a non-traditional student. Several times in any given semester someone will ask them what I teach there at school. The surprise on their faces upon learning I'm a student never fails to amuse me.  Education can take many forms."

 

"Becoming a public health professional will enable me to apply for positions in city, county and state health departments...most of the time we do our work without fanfare or glory because it is our passion to help others.  It's a joy and privilege to become part of a long line of those who have served to improve and protect the health of us all."​

George Mason University

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Christina Gleason

Dance

Christina is a Danish and U.S. citizen, majoring in dance with a minor in early childhood development.  She previously trained at the Metropolitan School of the Arts and the Royal Academy of Dance.  She teaches ballet, tap, and jazz to pre-primary and elementary school children and performs herself as well.  Career wise she is hoping to dance professionally as well as continue to teach.  ​

George Mason University

2017 Scholarship Recipients

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Paige Honbarrier

Dance

"I first started my dance training when I was six years old. I studied ballet, tap, jazz, lyrical, modern, hip-hop and acrobatics. At the age of fourteen, I joined the competition team, traveling along the east coast competing with well-known dancers and studios. I also received a teaching position at the studio instructing children ages 3-12 in ballet, jazz, hip-hop, and acrobatics.  After college, I would like to teach dance in a public school setting to children who may not receive the training outside of school. This scholarship that I have received will help me to achieve these goals."​

George Mason University

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Hela Baer

Masters Degree

"With your support, I was able to go to the United Nations Headquarters in New York City with a group of students, and present our project in the General Assembly Hall. Up until last year, I would never have been able to consider such opportunities because I was so overwhelmed  by school and work. But this year I have actually been able to pursue amazing opportunities like the UN trip. I have also been accepted into the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution’s Accelerated Masters Program. I can start taking graduate course this upcoming semester. I am so grateful for everything that you and GFFN have done for me."​

George Mason University

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Lun Lungsuay

Healthcare

"My family and many others were victims of the Myanmar war. I was almost a year old when my father and brother passed away because of this war. Many endless wars I encountered, I saw [many become hopeless and some became disabled] and I did not understand and could not do anything to help.  [Years later] I dreamed of pursuing further education in healthcare.  I want to help people that suffer [and inspire others] to believe that through education and good attitude, they can make this world a better place.  I thank God for everything and for you all and thank you for your support and generosity and for being part of the processes of this bigger picture of developing and helping many lives."

George Mason University

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Asma Sultana

Masters Degree

Masters in Curriculum and Instruction in Early Childhood Education AND Certificate in Early Childhood Education of Diverse Learners PreK-3 Currently works as an Instructional Assistant with Fairfax County Schools in HeadStart Program

She hopes to become an Early Childhood Education Teacher

Mother to 3 young boys. Studied at Punjab University and Fatima Jinnah Women University in Pakistan, She also received Diploma with Honors at Stratford Career Institute in ChildCare Management. She also attended NVCC here in US.

Extensive work with children and their parents while continually pursuing higher education in the education field.

Volunteered in relief efforts for earthquake disaster in Pakistan in 2005.

George Mason University

2015 Scholarship Recipients

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