“Lightning strikes once, but we didn’t expect it to strike twice or even three times,” sophomore Bdho Gidey said as he sat in the Marvin Center with two of his sisters, Sesen and Yuhana.
For the Gidey family, lightning indeed struck a third time last month when the third Gidey sibling, Yuhana, was awarded the Stephen Joel Trachtenberg Scholarship, which covers tuition and room and board at GW for four years. Bdho received the scholarship in 2008 and Sesen earned the honor in 2007.
Nine D.C. high school seniors were selected this year on the basis of grades, class rank, SAT scores, recommendations, leadership qualities, community service, other extracurricular activities and achievements, and demonstrated need. The process involves a nomination by a high school counselor and an interview.
Zakaree Harris, assistant director for undergraduate admissions, said only one other set of siblings has ever won the award in the past, and that each student is considered individually and not compared to past winners.
While they are from the same family, Sesen, a junior, said the siblings have different interests and goals.
“The three of us getting scholarships is more of a coincidence. We are three different individuals regardless of same family and we each have our own interest and involvement,” Sesen said. “We worked hard to get the grades we needed to get here. The scholarship wasn’t given to us because we are brothers and sisters.”
Sesen is grateful for the scholarships, and called them a blessing.
“We are very thankful to the University because there are not that many universities that would take an interest in investing in the city or community that they are placed in – which is what I love about GW, they are proactive in reaching out,” she said.
All six Gidey children have attended or are attending D.C. public schools, the siblings said. Sesen, who is majoring in biological anthropology, first learned of the scholarship when she participated in the High Skip Program, which gives high school students the chance to take college-level courses. When she attended orientation for the High Skip Program, a member of GW spoke about the Trachtenberg scholarship.
After graduating from Woodrow Wilson High School, Bdho is now majoring in biomedical engineering. Yuhana is a senior at Woodrow Wilson and will enroll at GW in the fall to study psychology.
Besides academics, the siblings said part of the reason they chose GW was the proximity to their family. The Gideys’ parents came to the United States 25 years ago after they fled Eritrea, a country in eastern Africa bordered by Sudan and Ethiopia. Their parents lived in Sudan as refugees before immigrating to the United States.
Their Eritrean heritage is one of the factors that motivate the siblings, they said. Sesen said she plans to attend medical school in the future and the type of medicine she wants to practice will be related to the D.C. community and the Eritrean community.
“I plan on getting involved with Physicians for Peace. I like the idea of going to Eritrea and learning there because it’s different from visiting,” she said.
Bdho is involved with a literacy project in the Eritrean community that reaches out to and helps teach young adults who do not know the language Tigrinya. Yuhana said she hopes to help Eritrea become a more stable country.
The siblings said their family has not just instilled a strong Eritrean identity, but also a strong work ethic, discipline and emphasis on serving others.
“Our parents have always taken great care to invest time and energy and sacrifice to make sure they set [a] good foundation for their children so in the future we can reap benefits because they set that good foundation. They want to make sure we maintain our Eritrean identity while still living in the United States,” Yuhana said.