GW Celebrates the 2024 Graduating Class of Stephen Joel Trachtenberg Scholars

The seniors were welcomed into the alumni network and received well-wishes from those who worked closely with them during their time at GW.

May 16, 2024

he 2024 graduating class of Stephen Joel Trachtenberg (SJT) scholars.

A celebration honoring the 2024 graduating class of Stephen Joel Trachtenberg scholars was held on May 15 at the School of Media and Public Affairs.

The 2024 graduating class of Stephen Joel Trachtenberg (SJT) scholars celebrated years of hard work and the culmination of their time at George Washington University at a graduation ceremony with family and friends on Wednesday afternoon. 

The SJT scholarship program, founded by GW President Emeritus Stephen Joel Trachtenberg in 1989, provides academically talented D.C. high school seniors with a full, four-year scholarship. The award was designed to attract talented high school seniors from D.C.'s public and public charter high schools to GW. 

Wednesday’s ceremony was hosted by current SJT scholars Jazmin Angel-Guzman, a rising senior studying Korean language and literature, and Kidus Zerihun, a rising sophomore studying computer science. 

“It is hard to believe the academic year is over, and here we are saluting you, our graduating seniors,” Zerihun said. “It seems like just yesterday you were welcoming us to campus, sharing your words of advice and tips for success and helping us navigate GW. Today, we are here to recognize you, celebrate you for all that you have accomplished these past four years, and for what we know you will continue to do in the years ahead.” 

GW President Ellen M. Granberg took to the podium to congratulate the graduating students. 

“This is an enormous accomplishment, and I hope that you feel a lot of pride in what you have been able to do in these last four years,” Granberg said. “Please know that the entire GW community will always stand behind you and always celebrate you. You have worked hard to earn your degree, and you have contributed greatly to our community and the SJT program.” 

Angel-Guzman introduced a recorded message from Royce Francis, an associate professor of engineering management and systems engineering, who couldn’t attend the ceremony in person due to a family emergency. 

“Dr. Francis has been a GW faculty member since the fall of 2010 and served as the SJT Scholar faculty mentor from fall 2018 to spring 2023,” Angel-Guzman said. “He's not just a professor here but a mentor and a friend you can easily have a conversation with when you're having trouble. And he's there to give you support and help you access resources.” 

In his message to students, Francis congratulated them on their milestone achievement, highlighting the importance of community and personal growth and acknowledging their experience starting classes during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“You all have persevered, and I hope your GW experience has been rewarding to you and has transformed you,” Francis said. “At this point, I'm thankful for the growth that I've experienced with you as part of the SJT scholars’ community. With that, I just want to say thank you to all of you and congratulations.”

The graduating seniors were called one by one to receive a medal reflecting the SJT scholar designation and a diploma frame. Then a video was played, highlighting some standout memories from the seniors as they reflected on their four years at GW.

Diego Gonzalez Portillo, a graduating senior majoring in business with a concentration in accountancy and marketing analysis and strategy, spoke about working to create more resources on campus to help undocumented students at GW.

Gonzalez Portillo is a GW Student Government Association senator. He created the Diversity and Inclusion in Employment Gaining Opportunities (DIEGO) Act to increase professional development and career advising assistance for undocumented students. 

“My first bill was approved as a senator for the Student Government Association,” Gonzalez Portillo said. “There was a question for George Washington to have an advising office that will have special services and resources for undocumented students on campus. I'm glad that it happened.”  

Selamawit Weimer, a graduating senior majoring in Africana studies, sociocultural anthropology and music, described her favorite experiences as a GW student.  

“My only at GW moment was seeing the former president of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, speak. As she answered some questions from the audience, something she said really resonated with me, and it encouraged me about how I want to go back to Ethiopia and help my community,” Weimer said. 

SJT scholar and alumnus Adam Middleton, B.A.'15, spoke at the ceremony offering the graduates words of encouragement and hope as they plan their life post-college. 

“We are so excited to have you join the ranks of this incredible scholarship and this incredible opportunity. You should feel incredibly proud,” Middleton said. “It's not a given that everyone gets a full ride to go to one of the most prestigious universities in their hometown, so harness every day and every opportunity to make the most of that.” 

Karen White, the executive director of campus engagement with the Office of Alumni Relations, welcomed the students to the GW Alumni Association. 

“The university is always here to support you,” White said. “I want to point out we call this commencement week and as you all know, commence means to start or to begin. So, this is not the end of our relationship with you. We hope this is the beginning of a new version of you and GW and we will continue to connect in ways throughout your life that are important."