Introducing our 2016 Esperanza Scholars!


After reviewing 450 applications and interviewing 30 finalists, we are thrilled to introduce our twelve extraordinary 2016 Esperanza scholars. Meet them one-by-one over the next two weeks by liking us on Facebook!

Wen Xing is a recent immigrant from China who ranked in the top ten of his high school class and served as captain of the robotics team while working 17 hours a week as a cashier at a fast food restaurant. Passionate about art and engineering, he creates sculptures from recycled materials and plans to study mechanical engineering at the University of Maryland–College Park and is this year’s Fred Wang Memorial Scholar.

Ngozi fled Nigeria with her mother to escape a difficult and tumultuous home life. After starting high school anew in the United States—despite having already completed high school in Nigeria at age 13—she became captain of the debate team, won fourth place in a national speech competition, and founded a diversity club to educate students about world cultures. She plans to study neuroscience at the University of Virginia.

Suhani, an immigrant from Nepal, graduated third in her high school class and served as president of the biotechnology club, the aviation club, and the Spanish Honor Society. She earned an internship in the Bioengineering Department at George Mason University, where she worked on new methods for detecting osteoporosis and helped develop a design for all-terrain crutches (patent pending!). She will study computer and electrical engineering at Virginia Tech and is this year’s Surendra S. Satoskar Memorial Scholar.

Anastasia is an immigrant from Kyrgyzstan who, during high school, committed 30 hours a week to community service through Key Club International, raising nearly $85,000 for UNICEF and leading 280,000 constituents as an International Trustee—all while taking nine AP courses. An aspiring lawyer, she plans to study government and international politics at George Mason University and is this year’s JBG Companies Scholar.

Bryan is an immigrant from Peru who plays the flute and the piccolo in six different community ensembles, including as first chair flutist of the Ashburn Youth Symphony Orchestra, and as the first Hispanic drum major of his high school marching band. He learns computer languages for fun and plans to pursue a career in cybersecurity after studying computer science at the College of William and Mary.

Abigail, whose parents are from the Philippines, endured poverty, hunger, and eviction throughout her childhood, and was often a caretaker for her younger brother. She was Vice President of the Virginia chapter of SkillsUSA, and received the NAACP Presidential Award for her efforts to change the name of her high school from that of Confederate general J.E.B. Stuart. She plans to major in early childhood development at James Madison University.

Nida, whose parents are from Pakistan, speaks four different languages, despite having lost her hearing as a child. She maintained a 4.0 GPA in high school while working 18 hours a week at Sears and volunteering with Claude Moore Community Builders. An aspiring nurse, she plans to attend Northern Virginia Community College and is this year’s Campbell-Seltz Scholar.

Kohar is a Syrian refugee of Armenian descent who escaped civil war in her hometown of Aleppo three years ago. As a summer intern at NASA, she helped design portions of the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope using three-dimensional engineering software. She plans to study astrophysics at Montgomery College.

Brenda, an immigrant from El Salvador, lost both her parents by age 10 and immigrated to the United States on her own at age 15 because her older sister would not allow her to continue her education past seventh grade. After working two jobs for three years, she enrolled in an alternative high school and graduated as valedictorian while continuing to work 30 hours a week as a cashier. She plans to study accounting at Northern Virginia Community College.

Ashlee, whose parents are immigrants from El Salvador, graduated in the top six percent of her high school class and served as captain of the cheerleading team, despite suffering from debilitating migraines. During an internship with a neurologist at Howard County General Hospital, she correctly diagnosed herself with epilepsy. An aspiring physician, she plans to study public health at the University of Maryland–College Park.

Oriella, whose parents are immigrants from Chile and El Salvador, is an aspiring family physician who coordinates blood drives in the Hispanic community. When her father was laid off, she helped her family by cleaning houses, selling homemade cookies and scarves, and selling eggs from 100 chickens that she and her brother raised in their backyard chicken coop. She will study nursing at Virginia Commonwealth University and later attend medical school.

Hector left El Salvador in 2015 to escape gang violence, and joined his mother in the United States, where she had been working to support their family since he was nine years old. He quickly learned English by watching American television and earned his GED in just four months. An aspiring video game programmer, he plans to study computer science at the University of the District of Columbia–Community College.