A Dream Come True

GW President Steven Knapp surprises Hope Ajayi of McKinley Technology Senior High School with a full ride to GW.
March 24, 2011

Nine D.C. high school seniors receive full scholarships to GW.

Imagine moving to the United States without knowing a single word of English.

Now imagine receiving a four-year, full-ride scholarship to GW.

Both are reality for Sidwell Friends School’s Angela Sako, who joined eight other District high school seniors as GW’s newest recipients of Stephen Joel Trachtenberg Scholarship Awards.

The winners were Ms. Sako; Adam Middleton and Chidi Agbaeruneke of Benjamin Banneker High School; Sarai Reed of Duke Ellington School of the Arts; Hope Ajayi of McKinley Technology Senior High School; Alena Russell of School Without Walls Senior High School; Jasmine Vicencio of St. John’s College High School; and Markus Batchelor and Moo Bae of Thurgood Marshall Public Charter High School.

On Wednesday GW President Steven Knapp and other university officials visited six of the students in their school classrooms to tell them about the awards they had won.

The two other students, whose schools are on spring break, were recognized at a separate surprise ceremony at the university. One student, currently in Italy, received the news during an unexpected long-distance phone call from Dr. Knapp.

“It gives me great pleasure to award Trachtenberg Scholarships to nine exceptional high school seniors who will soon graduate from District of Columbia high schools,” said Dr. Knapp. “Since the program began in 1989, we have made the dream of attaining a college education a reality for more than 100 District students, and we look forward to greeting these class of 2015 recipients when they join our university community next fall.”

Ms. Sako and her mother, Gjinovefa, were told one more interview with GW’s Office of Admissions was required on March 23. Both were completely shocked when Dr. Knapp delivered the news about the scholarship to them in his office.

A native of Albania, Ms. Sako and her family moved to the United States in 2003 after four years in Italy.

“I’m just so surprised. I did not expect this,” said Ms. Sako. “It’s a great opportunity and I’m so excited GW saw my potential. It’s so great to go through four years of high school trying your best, and then to have an institution like GW award you with such an amazing scholarship.”

Ms. Sako said she visited GW last summer and fell in love with the university. “It seemed like a perfect fit for me,” she said.

“This is a dream school for Angela,” said Gjinovefa Sako, “and this scholarship is a dream come true.”

Formerly the GW 21st Century Scholarships, the awards program was renamed for Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, GW president emeritus and university professor of public service, by the Board of Trustees in 1998 to celebrate Dr. Trachtenberg’s 10th anniversary in office. Since the program’s inception, GW has committed more than $16 million to the scholarship program.

The scholarship, worth more than $200,000, covers tuition, room and board, books and all student fees. The scholarships are renewed annually if the recipient meets GW’s academic requirements. The graduation rate for SJT scholars is close to 90 percent.

GW selects students based on their class rank, GPA, SAT scores, teacher recommendations, leadership qualities, community service and extracurricular activities and achievements. The scholarship is open to all D.C. residents graduating from an accredited D.C. high school—public, charter or private—who can demonstrate financial need.

“This year’s scholarship recipients are a diverse group of young leaders, scholars and role models,” said Karen Felton, GW director of admissions. “They have the confidence and the motivation that will take them as far as they want to go. These students will undoubtedly make their mark at the university and beyond, and I look forward to watching them grow at GW.”

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Stephen Joel Trachtenberg Scholarships 2011