Meet Our 2018 Scholars!


If you’re looking for inspiration in what has been a difficult summer, look no further than our latest class of Esperanza scholars. From a self-taught musician to a young engineer who is already using her skills to improve water quality in rural areas, our scholars demand that we look forward and participate in a better, brighter future.

Thanks to the generous support of our major financial donors like Donald Graham, Mike Seltz and Gillie Campbell, Google-DC, Esperanza Alumni, Kenyon and Susannah Weaver, Alvaro and Sima Bedoya, Alice Wang and Andy Felton, Tom Olson, and Claire Alexander, we distributed nearly $130,000 to 12 scholars this year — and have reached almost $1 million in total scholarships to immigrant scholars since Esperanza was founded 10 years ago.

You make that possible. Read more below about each of our incredible 2018 scholars.

Estefani is an aspiring elementary school teacher from El Salvador whose father passed away shortly after migrating to the U.S. and who herself arrived in Maryland at age 14. She maintained a 4.0 GPA throughout high school and served as president of a local immigrant youth group — tutoring more recent immigrants in algebra and ESOL— all while working nights as a cashier at Taco Bell. The daughter of a house cleaner, she will study education at Montgomery College.

Mehari is a refugee from Eritrea who fled to an Ethiopian refugee camp at age twelve and came to Virginia four years later. He worked jobs at McDonald’s and a local resort, competed in varsity cross country and track and field, all the while maintaining a 3.96 GPA. The first person in his family to graduate from high school, he will study engineering and aviation at Blue Ridge Community College.

Bao is a young woman from Vietnam who walked into her neighborhood fire station in the Virginia suburbs to ask how she could help. She became a volunteer emergency medical technician, spending her nights and weekends treating trauma patients — all while serving as captain of her varsity tennis team, treasurer of National Honor Society, and maintaining a 4.3 GPA. She will study biomedical engineering at the University of Virginia.

Brisa is an aspiring veterinarian from Peru who taught herself basic veterinary care — and dog obedience instruction — from YouTube after her family couldn’t afford either. She began offering her neighbors dog walking and obedience classes, won a scholarship to attend a specialized pre-veterinary program at Tufts University, and was admitted to the only pre-veterinary science program in the state of Virginia at Virginia Tech. She will study Animal & Poultry Science.

CeCe is the eldest daughter of immigrants from Ghana, and she has spent her young life moving back and forth and living in both Ghana and the United States. She often cared for her younger siblings while her parents worked long hours, founded her rural high school’s multicultural club, and was elected senior class president of her Maryland high school. After being diagnosed with malaria as a child — and a near death experience — she resolved to become a physician. A talented writer with a love for poetry, she will study biology at Temple University with the help of scholarship from Esperanza.

Quetzali, the daughter of a single mother from Mexico, fell in love with the bass and decided to pursue a career in music — but could never afford the private lessons typically required for admission to music school. She persevered and gained admission to the music program at George Mason University, where she will double major in music performance and math. (You may have read about her in the Washington Post when she stood up to a university that demanded her parents’ immigration documents.)

Hyun Ah (Grace) is an immigrant from South Korea who maintained a 4.09 GPA despite working nearly full-time to support her family. Active as a praise leader in her church community, she is eager to give back to the country that gave her so much and will enroll at Virginia Tech in the Corps of Cadets program, studying international relations with the help of a scholarship from Esperanza.

Daniel is an immigrant from Mexico who took care of his younger siblings while his parents worked and sees himself as a role model for them. He was captain of his Virginia high school’s varsity football team, president of the Math Honor Society, and maintained a 4.23 GPA while working 13 hour days on weekends for a catering company. He will study biology at George Mason University.

Farideddin is a young man from Iran and an aspiring aerospace engineer, who arrived 2 years ago and quickly enrolled in an advanced curriculum, earning a 4.13 GPA. A guitar player, he practiced his English by listening and playing Pink Floyd.  He will study Aerospace Engineering at Virginia Tech.

Getaante is a young dissident who fled Ethiopia who initially attracted the attention of the authorities when he wrote a poem calling for peace — and then was imprisoned and tortured for nine days after participating in political protest. After fleeing by himself to the United States and requesting political asylum, he maintained a 3.76 GPA while working up to 30 hours a week as a waiter at Buca di Beppo. He will study Biomedical Engineering at the University of the District of Columbia.

Ban is a young woman who fled Iraq and came to Virginia via Syria after her father was identified as having worked in the Iraqi Air Force under American command. Working up to eight hours a day after school to help her family pay the bills, she threw herself into her studies, completing an Associate’s Degree in Arts & Sciences before graduating from high school with a 4.34 GPA. She will study Government and International Politics at James Madison University.

Ly is a young woman from Vietnam who was a part of her Maryland high school’s robotics team. She was also state champion in SkillsUSA, and the lead researcher and test engineer for a team, part of a program run by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, that has designed—and will, this winter, deploy—a water decontamination system in rural Ethiopia. She will study Biomedical Engineering at the University of Maryland.