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JHSSF Donors Launch Journeys of Self-Discovery

Attending college often broadens one’s horizons. Of course, traditional “book” learning—studying engineering, or anthropology, or a new language—and work experiences shape a student’s future. Yet equally important is the personal exploration that the college experience encourages. In fact, our interviews with Justice High School Scholarship Fund (JHSSF) Scholars revealed our scholarships play a key role in making such personal exploration more accessible. Moreover, the tangible faith our community places in these students gives them the courage to take risks and try new things. From the courses they select, classmates and professors they engage with, and internships and extracurriculars they participate in, JHSSF Scholars embrace the full college experience. They make the most of the opportunities college life offers, learning from their individual journeys of self-discovery.

Don’t take our word for it. Instead, meet six JHSSF Scholars. They’ve shared their stories of lessons learned about both themselves and the broader world during their college years.

Soumia, a 2018 JHSSF Scholar, studies in the honors college at George Mason University. She used her freshman year to explore the academic options available to her and reignited her interest in the sciences. Her freshman decision to take an anatomy class laid the foundation for her future career choice. Choosing community health as a major with a minor in kinesiology has opened a wide range of options in the health profession. Soumia finds balancing school with two jobs as a pharmacy technician and an office assistant on campus challenging. Yet she makes time for the gym and socializing with her college friends. Soumia credits the wide variety of people she has interacted with in college with helping her to learn to go beyond her comfort zone and take charge of where her life is headed.

A 2017 JHSSF Scholar, Riad is now pursuing pre-med courses at the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. He was always close to his family in Northern Virginia, but it took moving to distant city, and dealing with the resulting separation, that led him to understand how important his family is to him. “Family is more than just people telling you what to do,” Riad notes. Phone calls to his parents and grandparents during freshman year helped lessen the pain of being apart. Riad also built a support community in Boston by joining a soccer team, and came to enjoy the freedom to make his own decisions.

Sandy, a 2018 JHSSF Scholar, is now studying social work at Juniata College in rural Pennsylvania. Several experiences, including youth counseling and working in a juvenile diversion program, allowed Sandy to explore the field of social work. As a result, she intends to work with incarcerated juveniles upon graduation. Attending college in a region so different from Northern Virginia, Sandy has also learned how important it is to be empathetic with others, even when you don’t necessarily agree. These days, she is slower to judge others. “You don’t always know what people are going through,” Sandy says. “And that influences how they act.”

After graduating in 2017, Yasmeen enrolled at American University where she started with classes in Justice and Law—and then discovered a passion for her major, Public Health. Feeling free to make a change or forge a new path was a life lesson for Yasmeen. In high school, she thought everyone knew what they would do in life. In college, she met scholars who still don’t know what they are doing with their lives. Yasmeen learned it’s okay not to have every detail of her life mapped out at all times; we’re all evolving all the time. Yasmeen’s study abroad in Denmark and many internships gave her the chance to explore and have helped her determine the career path she would like to follow.

Diana graduated from George Mason University in May 2021 with a degree in Global Affairs. During her time at GMU, she met people from other parts of the United States, with values and beliefs very different from what she experienced growing up in Northern Virginia. This perspective helped make her a more open-minded individual. During college, she interned in Hungary and worked with migrant communities. Time abroad gave her clarity about what to do professionally after graduation. Living in Hungary allowed her to meet people she would have never met otherwise. Diana came to realize the many benefits of having a diverse group of friends, including those who may not speak your language or share your culture.

Naila, a member of the Class of 2018, originally planned to study biology at George Washington University. Instead, she became captivated by international affairs and global health. She is now double-majoring in International Affairs and Business Management, saying she loves “having options” for her post-graduation life. Naila’s view of the world has expanded thanks to daily interactions with GW’s large international student body and an internship during which she learned about homelessness. “Everyone has a different story and perspective,” says Naila.

We are so proud of our recipients and how they embrace their college experiences, often selecting majors and activities in service of others. They take full advantage of the opportunities college affords, each crafting a unique journey of self-discovery.

Please consider making a donation to JHSSF. With your help, JHSSF Scholars earn a college degree—and so much more.


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