GW Surprises 10 D.C. High School Students With Full-Ride College Scholarships

The George Washington University’s Trachtenberg scholarship program awards academically talented students from Washington, D.C. high schools with a free college education

March 22, 2017

Emmoni Morrisey of McKinley Technology High School

Maralee Csellar: [email protected], 202-994-7564
Emily Grebenstein: [email protected], 202-994-3087

WASHINGTON (March 22, 2017)—Hard work and determination paid off for some academically talented District of Columbia high school students on Wednesday when GW President Steven Knapp hand-delivered acceptance letters and full-ride scholarships to 10 students across the city.

“This is my favorite day every year,” Dr. Knapp said. “With these scholarships, we are not only helping these students achieve their dreams but also sending a message across this great capital city that college is a possibility for all.”

Throughout the day, the GW scholarship awards team—comprised of Dr. Knapp, George the mascot, and admissions staff—secretly entered high schools across the city. At each school, the GW team entered classrooms or auditoriums to announce the news to the deserving students. Many became emotional when they realized their GW education would be free.

The following are this year’s Stephen Joel Trachtenberg Scholarship recipients:

  • Cherisse Hayes of Duke Ellington School of the Arts (Ward 1) is an aspiring journalist. She is class treasurer, a student contributor at and has interned for the D.C. Superior Court of Appeals as a junior deputy clerk.
  • Lorrin Davis of Columbia Heights Education Campus (Ward 1) is interested in studying international affairs to pursue her dream of working as a Foreign Service officer. She participated in former first lady Michelle Obama’s Let Girls Learn program and conducted a case study on the Syrian refugee crisis.
  • Ana Lopez of Columbia Heights Education Campus (Ward 1) first learned English at age 13 when she moved to D.C. and joined her mom who had left their home country when Ana was a baby. She will be the first member of her family to attend college.
  • Sydney Austin of National Cathedral School (Ward 3) is captain of her soccer team and editor of the school newspaper. She aspires to be an archaeologist.
  • William Davis of Woodrow Wilson High School (Ward 3) has volunteered with multiple D.C. programs including City CPR, the Lowell School and the Capital Area Food Bank. His internship with the Urban Alliance at the World Bank solidified his choice to major in business and pursue a career in finance.
  • Jenesis Duran of Washington Latin Public Charter School (Ward 4) is captain of her soccer team, school secretary and treasurer and involved in the League of United Latin American Citizens. She intends to study international relations.
  • Michael Degaga of Paul Laurence Dunbar High School (Ward 5) is expected to be the class valedictorian. He is the mechanical captain of the robotics team, a member of JROTC and hopes to turn his passion for aviation into a career and intends to major in mechanical engineering.
  • Emmoni Morrisey of McKinley Technology High School (Ward 5) is a graduate of the Cathedral Scholars program, a DCPS college summer enrichment and college preparatory program. She is captain of her school’s volleyball team and intends to major in business administration. 
  • Adonte Yearwood of Eastern High School (Ward 6) moved to D.C. from the U.S. Virgin Islands in order to further his education. A member of JROTC and the baseball team, he intends to major in criminal justice and pursue a career in law enforcement.
  • Joel Escobar of Cesar Chavez – Parkside High School Campus (Ward 7) is a first generation student and is expected to graduate at the top of his class. He is captain of his school’s soccer team, and an advocate for victims of domestic abuse and plans to major in computer science.

“We are excited to have the George Washington University continue its support of our students,” said Washington, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser. “I am proud of all the students who received these scholarships, they have proven that hard work pays off and now have the opportunity of a lifetime. Providing students in Washington, DC with a high quality education is a priority and this scholarship ensures that they are well positioned to continue their goals and success.”

GW selects students based on high school academic performance, strength of curriculum, recommendations, leadership qualities, community service, extracurricular activities and achievements and standardized test scores, should they choose to submit them under the university’s new test-optional policy. 

Students are nominated by their high school counselors and then participate in an interview process before being chosen for the scholarship. All D.C. residents graduating from an accredited high school in the District – public, charter or private – are eligible to receive the scholarship. The scholarships are renewed annually based upon satisfactory academic progress at the university.

Since 1989, GW has opened the door to higher education for high school students in D.C. through the university’s Stephen Joel Trachtenberg Scholarship (SJT) Program. The program provides academically exceptional students with full-ride scholarships that cover tuition, room, board, books and fees. The program has awarded scholarships and enrolled 166 students since the program began. The graduation rate for participants in the program is approximately 92 percent.

“We are excited to have these exceptional scholars join our GW community,” said Costas Solomou, dean of admissions at GW. “These ambitious and academically talented young men and women are well on their way to becoming the next generation of citizen leaders.”

A University Focus on Excellence and Access 
This merit-based scholarship program expands on GW’s connections with students from the District. At the public magnet School Without Walls on GW’s Foggy Bottom Campus, students can pursue associate degrees from GW while still in high school.

This long-standing scholarship program also complements the initiatives the university has undertaken to improve access to a college education for high-achieving students from all backgrounds. The university no longer requires most undergraduate applicants to submit SAT or ACT test scores. Other access programs include:

  • District Scholars Award, a grant launched in 2015 that expands college access to District of Columbia high school students to ensure that accepted D.C. students from families with annual household incomes at or below $75,000 can attend GW.
  • The Posse Foundation partnership, a nationwide college access and youth leadership development program offering full-tuition leadership scholarships to top Atlanta-area public high school graduates.
  • Say Yes to Education partnership that provides full-tuition scholarships for outstanding public high school students from participating chapters in New York and North Carolina whose annual family income is at or below $75,000. 

Multimedia Resources
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