University President Steven Knapp surprised nine D.C. public school seniors with full-ride Stephen Joel Trachtenberg Scholarships Friday morning, an unexpected gift for the students, many of whom would not been able to attend college otherwise.
The scholarships, which include full tuition, room and board, books and fees, are valued at over $200,000 each. The ceremony was held at Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Northwest D.C., where the students were told they would be attending a musical event.
“It is a blessing to receive this scholarship. It means a lot to our family,” said the father of Malissa Wilkins, one of the winners. With a son already in college, he said their family would be cash-strapped to send another.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the scholarship, which has been awarded to more than 100 students since its creation in 1989.
Recipients of the scholarships were selected through an extensive process based on their grades, SAT scores, class rank, extracurricular activities, volunteer work, recommendations and financial need. Those chosen students had not only succeeded in the classroom, but displayed leadership qualities in their schools and communities, Knapp said.
Charles Pulliam-Moore, a scholarship recipient from Woodrow Wilson High School who plans to major in broadcast journalism at GW, said learning he would receive a full-ride to GW left him at a loss for words. He said he enjoys writing and plans to get involved in some of the student publications.
“There are a lot of international students at GW, which is what D.C. is really like and is representative of what a college experience should be like,” Pulliam-Moore said. “Being exposed to new people, it opens your eyes up to the world around you. The student body at GW is so diverse. You can learn so much about the world just by making friends with people.”
Knapp emphasized that the committee looked for applicants who were not only strong students, but people who would take advantage of what the school and D.C. has to offer. The University hopes that once on campus, the students will “embrace the school” and become “ambassadors for the city,” Knapp said.
Alyssa Edwards, a senior at the School Without Walls and a scholarship recipient, said she is thrilled to be coming to GW in the fall. She is interested in drawing, architecture, math and science, plans on majoring in engineering and has expressed an interest in starting a juggling club on campus.
Lauren Dietz, Edwards’ college counselor said, “Alyssa is incredibly creative while at the same time being incredibly logical. Those two qualities will aid her in her studies.”
Hong-Qian Zhu, another winner from Woodrow Wilson High School, said GW was her first-choice school, even before she was selected to be a Trachtenberg Scholar. She plans on majoring in international relations at GW.
Excited cheers and even some tears filled the auditorium as the recipients were announced by master of ceremonies and Trachtenberg Scholarship alumnus Christian Washington. Knapp stood alongside the University’s mascot, George, as he presented the awards, which came with foam Colonial hats that the winners wore afterward for photographs.
Washington, who graduated in 2006 and is now in his third year at the GW Law School, said he takes his scholarship seriously.
“Being a Trachtenberg Scholar means being an ambassador for the University and for D.C.,” Washington said. “The program exposes students to a wide variety of opportunities and encourages service to the University and the local community. This unique opportunity has enriched my college experience and enhanced my leadership abilities.”
D.C. City Councilman Michael Brown also addressed the students, encouraging them to support each other and set an example for the younger kids in their neighborhoods by showing them that education is the key to success.
The photo caption in this article has been revised to reflect the following correction: (April 9, 2009)
In the photo caption, The Hatchet misidentified award recipient Dana Hudson as Jasmin Cook.
This article appeared in the April 6, 2009 issue of the Hatchet.