D.C. High School Seniors Surprised with Full-Ride Scholarships to GW

Students receive four-year Trachtenberg Scholarships erasing families’ financial worries, paving the way for a GW education.

March 10, 2023

SJT Day 2023

McKinley Technical High School senior Jasmine Evans was surrounded by friends, family and school administrators in celebration after being recognized as an SJT scholar. (Kate Woods/GW Today)

At McKinley Technology High School Wednesday morning, it was almost ironic that senior Jasmine Evans’ history lesson pertained to the attack on Washington, D.C., during the War of 1812 and how its aftermath is still being felt to this day. The class assignment was to explain to an eighth grader the effects that war had on future generations of Washingtonians.

But visitors from the largest university in D.C.—George Washington University—quickly interrupted the in-class activity to deliver to Evans, a highly involved leader and exemplary STEM-focused student at McKinley Tech, some big news. She will have the opportunity to remain a leader in the city and be a part of its solution for her own generation and others behind her as university officials awarded her a Stephen Joel Trachtenberg (SJT) scholarship. Not only had she been admitted to GW, but the scholarship would also cover the full cost of her college education—four years of tuition, room, board, books and fees.

“We know that you will make important contributions not only to the community around us but also to the George Washington University, just as you have done through your time here at McKinley Technical High School,” said GW President Mark S. Wrighton, holding an oversized and signed acceptance letter for a somewhat shell-shocked Evans to hold.

Evans, a resident of Ward 8 who has a 3.99 grade-point average, was both surprised and humbled to be one of the 11 D.C. high school students to receive the SJT scholarship this year. 

“I felt kind of nervous and excited at the same time, and I didn't expect it,” Evans said of her surprise. “[The scholarship] means that I don’t have to worry about finances or anything like that, and I really do appreciate that.”

The program was launched in 1989 by then-GW President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg under the name 21st Century Scholars. A decade later, Trachtenberg said, the Board of Trustees renamed the program after Trachtenberg, who was in his 10th year heading the university.

GW selects students based on high school academic performance, strength of curriculum, recommendations, leadership qualities, community service, extracurricular activities and achievements, and standardized test scores, should they choose to submit them.

“It was something that I thought about in my first week on the job,” President Emeritus Trachtenberg said. “Not naming anything after me, but ways that GW could connect more with the District of Columbia. GW is not just in Washington, we are of Washington.

“Now, all these years later, the SJT scholarship program has touched so many lives and so many people,” Trachtenberg said. “Many of them stay in touch with me. Sometimes their children do, too. We have the ability to make other people’s lives better, and that is so important to do.”

Evans has been providing that for others throughout her high school career. She is a mentor at the GirlBoss Academy at McKinley Tech, which helps young ninth-grade girls navigate the transition between middle and high school. As Evans put it, it’s mostly “women inspiring women” while also providing mentorship to those who might be struggling or just need a little boost once they enter high school.

She intends to use her education to further give back to the community, as she plans to study nutrition at GW’s Milken Institute School of Public Health. She is motivated to provide care to those in greatest need, which is a value consistent with how her grandmother raised her and her four siblings.

Her grandmother, Sharon Evans, was present and beaming with pride Wednesday. She is grateful that her granddaughter will continue leading by example in D.C. and that there will be no financial burdens holding back her potential.

“As she’s already doing, she’ll be able to continue to help so much of the community with all her heart so she can pass it on to other young girls and keep them focused,” her grandmother said. “That's what I'm looking forward to is her helping others in our community.

“[The scholarship] is almost like a miracle. She hasn't let me down one bit.”

The SJT scholarship showcases GW’s commitment to recruiting and retaining the best and brightest students, expanding access to the transformative power of a GW education through scholarships. GW is investing in future generations of leaders, including through increased scholarship and fellowship support through Open Doors: The Centuries Initiative for Scholarships & Fellowships.

That paves the way for students such as Nkiruka Nwachukwu, who at 16 years old co-founded the Community Upliftment Project in Nigeria, which provides school supplies to students in the country. Nwachukwu received her SJT scholarship surprise Wednesday morning at Archbishop Carroll High School, recognizing her years of hard work and service leadership.

Nwachukwu’s brother, the other co-founder of the Community Upliftment Project, led her into a room filled with friends, family, teachers and school administrators. Moments after she walked in, the curtains drew on a stage holding Wrighton, her large acceptance letter, GW balloons and, of course, George the mascot.

When she steps foot on campus next fall as a finance major at GW School of Business, committed to a career of enhancing financial literacy domestically and internationally, specifically in communities with limited access to information, she’ll be carrying on a proud GW legacy. Her mother, Chioma Nwachukwu, is a 1995 biology graduate.

“My mom has always talked about GW and her experience there,” the younger Nwachukwu said. “She really enjoyed it, and now I get to enjoy what she did.”

Nkiruka is humble in nature, even though she has a laundry list of accomplishments that includes ranking second in her class. But her proud mom was happy to amplify the praises of her soon-to-be fellow GW family member.

“It's just that she’s such a quiet kid, you wouldn't even know that she's working as hard as she is,” Chioma said. “But just to see that she's able to succeed and kind of goes through it effortlessly, it's just amazing. I was so excited when I got the call.”

She is also pleased her alma mater offers this opportunity for D.C. area leaders such as her daughter. 

“It's just an honor that GW has been able to offer such a scholarship for students in D.C.,” Chioma said. “It’s just so amazing for her to be able to experience this and continue on there and be in the D.C. environment, which she loves.

“GW was such a great school and an awesome experience for me. And I think, given her characteristics, that GW will be amazing for her as well.”

GW also made stops at Dunbar High School, Benjamin Banneker High School, Columbia Heights Educational Campus/Bell Multicultural High School, Paul International Charter School, Georgetown Visitation Prep, School Without Walls and Gonzaga College High School on Wednesday. It visited Calvin Coolidge High School on Tuesday.

In addition to Evans and Nwachukwu, the class of 2027 SJT scholars included:

  • Lauren Alejandra Chicas Garcia and Kidus Zerihun of Dunbar
  • Erick Alexander Torres Flores of Calvin Coolidge
  • Peniel Bokretzion of Paul International
  • Viviana Diaz Pacheco of Benjamin Banneker
  • Jahi Lopez Melendez of Columbia Heights Educational Campus
  • Michael McKnight of Gonzaga
  • Maia Medley of Georgetown Visitation Prep
  • Fabiha Tasnim Hatem of School Without Walls

Open Doors: The Centuries Initiative for Scholarships & Fellowships charts a course to increase access to the transformative power of a GW degree. Learn more about how GW is expanding opportunity for the next generation of leaders.