- The Washington Times - Monday, June 19, 2006

Ten black graduating high school seniors in Northern Virginia received $5,000 scholarships for academic excellence yesterday.

The students were nominated by their school principals and selected from a pool of applicants based on their academic achievements.

“These students have many similarities,” John Porter, the incoming assistant superintendent of administrative services and public relations for Alexandria Public Schools, told the students and their families and friends. “They are strong leaders and exhibit curiosity, yet each boasts his or her own talents.”

The scholarships were awarded during a ceremony at Mirant’s Potomac River Generating Station in Alexandria.

The recipients were: Tsegazeb Bekele, 17, Raymond Ejiofor, 18, Shewit Giovanni, 17, Joy Kazadi, 18, and Hiwot Tilahun, 17, all of T.C. Williams High School; Donielle Johnson, 18, of the Foxcroft School; Gideon Basoah, Charles Kwening, 17, and William Massie, 18, all of Mount Vernon High School; and Augustine Boateng, 20, of West Potomac High School.

The scholarship program is a joint venture between Washington Metropolitan Scholars, an organization that partners with colleges to provide scholarships, and Mirant Corp., an energy company that produces and sells electricity in the United States, the Philippines and Caribbean nations.

The energy company will contribute a total of $250,000 to provide 10 scholarships to Alexandria students each year for the next five years.

Alexandria Mayor William D. Euille encouraged the students to volunteer in their communities, to work hard and to become successful citizens.

Tsegazeb described feelings of inferiority because of his race. “I remember having a constant feeling that I was looked down upon,” he said.

He said many minority students did not enroll in academically challenging courses because their friends were not taking them. “I think that is a very, very bad reason to not take classes that colleges are looking for,” he said.

Tsegazeb will attend Yale University this fall and plans to major in biology and science, but he will continue to play the saxophone.

Other scholarship recipients have been accepted at the University of Pennsylvania, Virginia Commonwealth University, the University of Virginia, the University of Richmond and Carnegie Mellon University.

“I was excited and a bit surprised [to get the scholarship],” said Hiwot, who immigrated to the United States from Ethiopia when she was 6.

She plans to pursue a degree in international studies at the University of Richmond and eventually return to Ethiopia to help build schools and hospitals.

Each student was given a framed certificate and a backpack full of college essentials, such as pens, blank note cards and notebooks.

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