The Refugee Students Scholarship Program is honored to announce its inaugural class of scholarship recipients for the 2019-20 academic year. These students were selected from a talented pool of applicants who will be attending UC and CSU campuses across the state. Our five inaugural scholarship recipients demonstrate academic achievement, leadership and a commitment to serving both their host communities and their home countries.

We are especially grateful to our donors who made this scholarship possible and whose generosity will allow our cohort of students to complete their higher education.

We would like to thank our fiscal sponsor, Access California Services, for managing our fund, donations and for supporting us as we established the program. We would also like to thank the UCI Office of Financial Aid & Scholarships for helping with the application and scholarship selection process. 

A special thank you to UCI Dalai Lama Scholarship and advisor Karina Hamilton for making the inaugural fundraising banquet possible and to the Books Not Bombs campaign for helping make the banquet a success.  Lastly, we would like to thank the students at Peaceful Passions for their support for the scholarship program and for their commitment to creating opportunities for refugees.

Meet them here:

Maryam Sattar

School: San Diego State University
Major: Social Work
Home country: Afghanistan 

Life was difficult for Maryam and her family in their home country of Afghanistan. Maryam was born with vision impairment and as violence and threats escalated in Afghanistan, she had to flee to Pakistan for refuge when she was only five years old. In Pakistan, Maryam faced bullying and discrimination, but despite these challenges, she found solace in education and in serving others.

While remaining focused on her studies, Maryam also became a mentor and voice for other refugees. She was given the opportunity to share her story in platforms in Pakistan and later when she came to the United States five years ago. In 2013, Maryam was recognized by the UNHCR for her extraordinary work to support the refugee community. Maryam is working towards her bachelor’s degree in social work at SDSU, and she intends to use her education to enhance the lives of people facing inequality and discrimination. 

Gloria Baroi

School: UC Irvine
Major: Public Health Science
Home country: Bangladesh

Gloria fled to the United States from Bangladesh with her family at the age of 12, after her family was targeted and threatened by radical political groups because of her father’s vocal support for female education and empowerment and her family’s faith. Despite the challenges of seeking asylum in a new country, Gloria has been a star student. Gloria graduated with high honors from high school, where she was a varsity member of Speech and Debate and received first place at multiple tournaments in extemporaneous speaking. 

Gloria hopes to use her experiences and voice to make a difference for others. Gloria has seen the link among poverty, healthcare and education and the need for sustainable relationships between doctors, young mothers and institutions. Gloria will be pursuing public health science at UCI, and ultimately hopes to become a doctor and work with NGOs to increase healthcare access for women across the world. 

Kholood Alshami

School: UC Irvine
Major: Political Science
Home country: Syria

Kholood and her family fled violence in Syria in 2015, as the civil war in the country escalated and took the lives of some of her family members. Despite having to leave her home and extended family behind, Kholood found comfort and solace in her education. In addition to her studies and her involvement on campus, Kholood has also been committed to supporting her family. In high school, she worked at McDonald’s and Taco Bell, and in college, she worked at Vans, Dunkin Donuts and even a law firm. 

Experiencing the challenges of applying for asylum firsthand, Kholood hopes to become an immigration attorney and start her own immigration law firm. She is already working towards these goals. During her first year at IVC, Kholood founded the Law and Society Association on her campus to establish a safe space to talk about law, politics and education and to create community on campus. Currently, Kholood is working at a workers’ compensation law firm and is taking classes to obtain her paralegal certificate. Kholood is also already preparing for the LSAT and her law school application. 

Sara Alshehabi

School: UC Irvine
Major: Biological Sciences
Home country: Syria

Sara was only 12 years old when her family fled war in Aleppo, Syria. Not only did her family fear for their safety, but they were particularly concerned about Sara’s younger brother who was diagnosed with kidney failure. While war resulted in food shortages, loss of electricity and the closure of schools, it also shut down all the hospitals and cut medical supplies. Sara’s family had to flee Syria to get her brother the urgent medical care he needed.

In the United States, Sara not only shouldered the challenges of adjusting to a new life and school system, but she also began assisting other refugee families who needed help translating, making phone calls and editing documents. When Sara’s brother began receiving treatment, Sara would accompany him and soon she was given the opportunity to serve as a pediatric dialysis volunteer. At UCI, Sara will be taking pre-med courses as she plans to pursue a career as a medical doctor.

Nada Abubakr

School: Cal State Long Beach
Major: International Studies
Home country: Sudan

Nada was forced to flee Sudan in 2003 when civil war and genocide broke out in Darfur. As the violence escalated, Nada’s entire village was burned down by armed militia. Nada and her family were forced to flee from one village to another as they escaped violence, ultimately leading them to flee Sudan entirely to live in a refugee camp in Chad. While she was safe from violence, living in a refugee camp presented its own challenges, particularly the poor living conditions. Nada considers herself fortunate to receive an interview to come to the United States as a refugee.

While adjusting to a new life – especially overcoming a language barrier – was difficult, Nada remained committed to her studies. In addition to school, Nada attended after-school tutoring programs to improve her English skills. Nada has already made a difference in her community. Nada is a trained restorative circle facilitator, a position through which she helps build community and resolve conflict in classrooms across San Diego County. She also leads programs to help other refugee youth develop their public-speaking skills and have their voices heard. Nada hopes to go to law school to become a human rights attorney and ultimately work for the United Nations.