Mikias is smiling from ear to ear and his eyes sparkle with excitement. A huge burden was lifted off his shoulders recently when he got the news that he had won a full scholarship to George Washington University.
“I still can’t believe it’s true!” he says, laughing.
Mikias, who is a member of Mary’s Center’s After School Program or “Teen Program,” works 3 jobs to support himself and his younger sister and college seemed out of reach. Keeping up with his work commitments and school assignments has been very challenging, but his perseverance has paid off. Mikias says he is very grateful to the Teen Program staff who helped him with his homework and organized workshops on how to apply for college and scholarships.
“They would remind us when a scholarship deadline was coming up and they looked at several drafts of my college essay until it was just right!”
The Teen Program was a lifeline for Mikias who came to the US from Ethiopia alone in July 2014, as a political refugee after being arrested for taking part in marches because he wanted basic services and job opportunities for himself and the youth of his country.
Mary’s Center played a big role in helping him adapt to his new environment.
“Trying to adjust to school here was hard. There was the language barrier and also the standards in American schools and Ethiopian schools are different. I was lucky because I had two cousins and an aunt who were patients of Mary’s Center, and they suggested I join the Teen Program,” Mikias says.
In the Teen Program he started making friends and found the support he needed to succeed.
“I like getting together with teens from other schools in DC, making connections. The staff there are also mentors to me. They are very cool, fun and friendly, and I feel like I can talk to them about anything.”
When Mikias starts at George Washington University this Fall, he will begin his journey towards a degree in dentistry. “Many people in my family suffer from long-term dental problems. Dental care is very expensive in Ethiopia and I want to be part of the solution. ”
Read the inspiring story of Hermann, another Teen Program participant, who won a scholarship that will pay for his studies through his PhD!