by Director of Community Outreach, Dana Lea. Special thanks to Mahsa Ahmadi for her openness and willingness to share.
According to Mahsa Ahmadi, education is everything – “I love to learn, to share the knowledge and apply the knowledge in the best way possible. Advancing in a field without proper education is impossible.” Mahsa is a pre-med/neuroscience student at George Mason University. She is a 20-year old recipient of the LSSNCA 2019 Bold Journeys and Elizabeth Kreiser Weisburger Scholarships.
The LSSNCA Serve Boldly Scholarships have made a great difference in Mahsa’s ability to attend GMU. When Mahsa was first admitted to the university, she was considered an “out of state” student and therefore the tuition was extremely high. Though not a complete barrier for her, tuition was certainly a challenge. Since receiving the 2019 scholarships, that challenge has been reduced for her: “I applied and was granted the scholarship. I was so happy that I wanted to cry because my hope was fulfilled. LSS scholarships gave me strength and motivated me to continue my education with more hope and dedication. With the amount awarded, I was also able to purchase the MCAT preparation books and run after my dream of becoming a doctor.”
Mahsa’s pursuit of education has not been an easy path, but her hard work and devotion to her education is apparent throughout. In high school she won seven medals in language and culture, mathematics, and poem recitation. After high school, Mahsa went on to study at a medical college to pursue her dream of becoming a doctor. Her educational journey was disrupted when her and her parents immigrated to the U.S. on October, 26th, 2018.
Mahsa and her family are originally from Afghanistan. Her mother was renowned as a Women’s Rights Activist. After over a decade of working for Afghan women and receiving threats, Mahsa’s mother decided to leave her country to not only save her own life but the lives of her family members. As newly arrived refugee clients, LSSNCA staff in Fairfax helped the Ahmadi family adjust to their new life in the US. For Mahsa, this meant getting back into school.
“It was my third year in medical school when we received our US visas. It was a bitter sweet feeling – I had to leave my country and my friends and relatives, but it also was a step closer to my dream of studying in the United States. Immediately, I started to apply to universities in the DC area and got admission from all four. Currently, I am a junior in neuroscience at GMU, with transferred credits from medical school in Afghanistan.”
Because of Mahsa’s drive for education, she did not give herself much time to adapt to her new US community before jumping back into school and efforts to achieve her dream. “My biggest dream is to become a medical doctor. In fact, I have never given up on this dream. I was volunteering in a private hospital in Afghanistan. When I came to the US, I heard Inova Hospital, the Alexandria branch, call for volunteers, and I applied. Soon after, I started volunteering in the Emergency Department. This was one of my best experiences in my first months of entering the United States”
When asked about the importance of a US education and the impact the scholarships have had on her life Mahsa reflected, “One of the reasons I always dreamed about studying in the USA even before coming to the US was that my mom, my sister and my brother-in-law were all Fulbright alumni and studied their masters degrees in the US years ago. They talked about their experiences and I loved to hear the stories from the melting pot culture and friendliness to the high technology and high standards of living. When I first started to experience life in the US, the first few weeks were the most difficult for me. Everything was new to me. However, as I got involved in the community by attending university, working, and volunteering, I felt more belonging. This was especially true, when I became a member of the youth mentorship program (MYVA). My mentor was such a big help for me and was there when I had challenges and needed guidance. I am thankful to LSS, as the staff was there to assist, provide advice and guide me whenever I needed them.”
*This year, Mahsa is, once again, among the applications for the 2020 Serve Boldly Scholarships. You can see all of our 2019 Serve Boldly Scholarship winners here. We will award multiple scholarships for the 2020-2021 school year including the Bold Journeys and Elizabeth Kreiser Weisburger Scholarships. You can promote educational and vocational success by donating directly to our scholarship program. We have a goal of reaching an additional $5,000 by the end of March to be awarded to our spring scholarship recipients.
The Serve Boldly Scholarships are intended to further the dreams and success of clients by awarding funds for college education, vocational training, and certifications. For many of our clients with professional credentials and experience, they have left behind careers in their home countries to start a new life in the U.S., and the cost of the re-credentialing process can be a tremendous challenge. For other clients, the cost of an undergraduate degree can be daunting!