In the past 19 years, the University has offered 99 D.C. students full tuition, free housing and textbooks as part of the Trachtenberg Scholarship. On Friday, in a surprise ceremony, a few more also received these honors.
Families of the scholarship’s finalists gathered in the Benjamin Banneker High School auditorium where University President Steven Knapp revealed the nine winners and presented them with their acceptance packets. Chancellor of D.C. Public Schools Michelle Rhee, who also participated in the ceremony, outfitted the newest Colonials with yellow, foam three-corner hats and GW pom-poms. The program makes GW the largest provider of financial aid to D.C. public school students.
“This is amazing. In my wildest dreams I never expected this,” said William Echbihi El Idrissi, a senior at Theodore Roosevelt High School who plans to attend GW. “GW is really reaching out to the community. I’m just at a loss for words.”
Pam Harris, El Idrissi’s mother, said she was proud of her son.
“This is a weight off of our shoulders,” Harris said. “It’s also a big responsibility, and he understands that. It’s the opportunity of a lifetime . and he now has an (obligation).”
Sarah Jackson, one of the winning Banneker High School seniors, also said she was excited about her scholarship.
“This is great,” she said. Jackson was the first to slide her new Colonials hat on her head once the scholarship recipients reached the stage. She said she plans to study environmental science at GW, which was her first-choice college.
The University’s office of Admissions considers a variety of factors when determining the Trachtenberg Award recipients. These factors include applicants’ class rank, grade point average, SAT scores, intended major, teacher recommendations, extracurricular activities and an interview.
Other students in the audience applauded – and in some cases screamed – when Knapp read each winner’s name. After greeting Knapp and Rhee on stage, recipients even shook hands with GW’s mascot Little George.
This is the first year the University awarded the Trachtenberg Scholarships at a public assembly. In the past, high school administrators would call the winning students into the principal’s office where students’ parents were there to surprise them with the news.
“To see how appreciative the families are … it’s very moving, very meaningful,” Knapp said after the ceremony. “It says a lot about how much we’re involved in the city. I could do this every day.”