Northern Virginia Community College student, Ellaha Momand of Alexandria, came to the United States two and a half years ago from Afghanistan. While currently pursuing a degree in biochemistry with plans to become a heart specialist or cardiac surgeon, she is also taking care of her family. During a celebratory luncheon held Friday, Sept. 13 at River Bend Golf and Country Club, Great Falls, Momand and eleven other women had the opportunity to meet and thank members of Great Falls Friends & Neighbors Scholarship Fund for 2019 scholarships awarded to them totaling $17,500.
"As a student, taking care of family and also pursuing academic goals, this scholarship is really important. It lessens the financial stress and burden to achieve my educational goals while living in this high-cost area," said Momand.
According to member Erin Labato, Great Falls Friends & Neighbors Scholarship Fund benefits women 25 years of age and older, attending higher levels of education at any phase in their lives and who meet guidelines.
"For many of these women, they are the first in their families to attend college, or they are working full-time to support a family [while going to school]," she said.
Formed in 1983 under the umbrella of the Great Falls Friends and Neighbors club for women and supported by its membership, the scholarship fund became a 501 (c)(3) organization with a separate approved board. In 2016, the board established two $25,000 endowments, one at George Mason University (GMU) and one at Northern Virginia Community College to ensure the perpetuity of donated monies. In memory of former club member Betty Carter, a scholarship is also awarded each year to a George Mason dance student.
Mary Lou Christy, President of the Great Falls Friends and Neighbors Scholarship Fund, explained that recipients had to meet certain criteria and have 3.0 GPA or better. "Each submitted an essay, and the board determined the recipients based on their essays and (financial) scores provided to us from FAFSA."
Diana Parkinson of Oakton is Assistant Director of Donor Relations and Stewardship at GMU. She said that her job is to provide reports and scholarship recipient information. "I am the liaison between Office of Student Financial Aid, the University Foundation, and GFFNSF,” Parkinson said. "I've heard many stories that regardless of the award amount, it makes a life-changing difference. Students tell what a stress reliever it is and that enables them to focus on their studies."
To donate or for more information about the Great Falls Friends and Neighbors Scholarship Fund, Inc. visit, www.gffnsf.org.
2019 Great Falls Friends and Neighbors Scholarship Fund, Inc. Awards:
George Mason University – $1,500 Scholarship; $1,000 to Endowment Recipient, total = $5,500
Ana Vasquez Veliz, Fairfax County – Pursuing a bachelor's degree in nursing, she plans to continue onto a master's degree program. As a Latina, Veliz seeks to focus on the Latin community educating them on health-related topics.
Bindu Bista Dhami, Fairfax County -Immigrated from Nepal 3 years ago, she is working hard to obtain her bachelor's degree in nursing while supporting her family in Nepal. Dhami's goal is to become a critical care Nurse Practitioner and provide healthcare to low-income people.
Silvana Perez, Fairfax County - A graduate student pursuing a master's degree in education, she is a single mother who plans to work as an Elementary School teacher in the Fairfax County School system in diverse and low-income areas.
Endowment Recipients – To be decided by the University:
Northern Virginia Community College – $1,500 Scholarship, 2 from Endowment, total = $12,000
Ligia Decaro, Fairfax County – From Venezuela and a mom of 2 boys, she has a bachelor's degree in computer science and is currently pursuing an associate's degree in accounting.
Rebekah Reaves, Fairfax County – Single mother of 3 special needs children; she is pursuing a degree in interior design.
Melissa Carbajal, Fairfax County - A veteran of the United States Marine Corps, she is currently completing her associate's degree in business administration with plans to pursue a bachelor's degree in kinesiology from GMU.
Sothearinh Thach, Fairfax County – Working since she was 14, Thach realized education was the key to improving herself and advancing. She is pursuing a degree in information technology.
Dimple Jamine Oliva, Fairfax County – Born and raised in the Philippines, while her mother was hospitalized for cancer, Oliva was struck by how compassionate and professional the nurses were, and decided she wanted to be a nurse, so she could bring empathy, support, and unparalleled health care to the sick. Once she obtains her degree, she hopes to work as a hospital nurse full time.
Ellaha Momand, Alexandria – She came to this country two and a half years ago from Afghanistan and is currently pursuing a degree in biochemistry with plans to become either a heart specialist or cardiac surgeon. Momand realizes the huge responsibility doctors have for their patients and desires to be someone who can help others and also someone in whom her patients can put their trust.
Rebecca Wichmann, Fairfax County – Pursuing a degree in computer science, Wichmann works full time and attends school full time.
Cariza Anna Opana, Fairfax County – Pursuing a degree in liberal arts with the dream to finish her bachelor's degree in the United States, Opana seeks to return to the Philippines to obtain her master's degree. After struggling with anxiety and depression herself, Opana hopes to raise awareness of mental health in her home country and fight the stigma it has there.