The Michell Merhige Scholarship is designed to honor a young woman who overcame great obstacles in her life and went on to graduate from college, establish a successful career and give back to her community in numerous ways.

Each year, the scholarship provides an award of up to $1500 to a graduating senior attending a Fairfax County public school. The scholarship supports young people who, like Michell, are succeeding in the face of adversity.

Donors to this fund believe students who face hardships can prevail with assistance from their community. They want to help make success stories happen.


Samiha Mahboob is a recipient of the 2020 Michell Merhige Scholarship. She is a graduate of Westfield High School, where she consistently distinguished herself as an outstanding student since her arrival from Bangladesh in 2016.

Despite a challenging road with much loss and many obstacles, Samiha's extraordinary work ethic has been demonstrated in her studies, in every job she has held to support herself and, in her commitment to helping others.

Described by her teachers as a quiet, caring leader, whose circumstances have never limited her, Samiha has been navigating the bureaucracies of social, health and educational services through her teenage years. She will continue to do so as she enters Virginia Tech, where she intends to major in business and finance.

Samiha sees education as the power she will use to reach her long-term goal of establishing a non-profit organization to change the lives of struggling youth. There is no doubt she will succeed.


Khadeejat Lawal has been awarded a 2020 Michell Merhige Scholarship. As a student at Robinson Secondary School she overcame health issues and distinguished herself in both AP and IB courses. At the same time Khadeejat won varsity letters in track on teams that she led to district and regional championships. She routinely held jobs to address financial needs and still made time to volunteer in youth programs for religious integration and developmental needs.

Khadeejat will be attending Virginia Tech, where she intends to pursue her goal of becoming a physical therapist, who serves underrepresented populations. Her teachers describe her as having the maturity, kindness and grit to achieve her goals!


Sarah Sandy of Mount Vernon High School is a 2019 recipient of the Michell Merhige Scholarship. She describes herself as optimistic and determined, as evidenced by her excellent grades, her leadership in the Student Government Association, her role as an instructor at Vacation Bible School, her involvement in College Partnership and her participation in National Honor Societies. She has secured scholarships and maintained employment despite her own health challenges and the tragic loss of her mother this year.

Sarah will combine her drive to succeed and her caring for others at Old Dominion University, where she will major in Public Health on a Pre-Med track. Her personal involvement in the medical field has led her to the goal of becoming a pediatric radiologist.


Maria Ribera Sites is a 2019 recipient of the Michell Merhige Scholarship. A graduate of Annandale High School, she has maintained good grades, a demanding work schedule and an array of volunteer activities as she moved eight times in the past four years, not only changing addresses, but even country of residence! Throughout these upheavals, her own health needs and despite the chaotic and often dangerous difficulties of her youth, Maria contributed to DECA, Rotary Club, Interact Club, her church organizations and school yearbook. She distinguished herself as a team leader in Operation Smile and was a translator for foreign doctors when she lived abroad.

Now an emancipated minor, Maria considers herself "an independent woman" who will be attending Virginia Commonwealth University next year, where she will determine which helping field will become her major. She looks forward to the diversity of college as she embraces the future.


Fariha Rahman of Lake Braddock Secondary School is the 2018 recipient of the Michell Merhige Scholarship. A young woman of extraordinary diligence and determination, Fariha overcame health and family issues to complete six AP and nine honors courses, even as she volunteered for numerous community organizations, tutored other students, maintained membership in two honor societies, participated in theater, speech and debate, and supported herself as a waitress.

With this and the several other scholarships and awards she has garnered, Fariha will attend Drexel University next year, where she plans to major in pre-law studies. In the future she hopes to advocate, within the legal system, for children and other under-served populations. Fariha talks about adding a little sparkle to the world. Indeed.


Yusra Mohammed is the 2017 recipient of the Michell Merhige Scholarship. She distinguished herself at Hayfield Secondary School as a member of the National Honor Society, National English Honor Society, National Spanish Honor Society, National Science Honor Society and National History Honor Society, even as she played varsity tennis, established and presided over the local chapter of Young Democrats and supported others through the Student 2 Student program. An emancipated minor, Yusra supported herself with jobs and internships.

Her abilities have also garnered Yusra a scholarship that provides tuition, room and board at the College of William and Mary, where she plans to major in political science and foreign affairs. She hopes that a year abroad will hone her abilities in Spanish and Arabic.


Emily Palmer, of West Springfield High School, is the 2016 recipient of the Michell Merhige Scholarship. Despite the fact that the first decade of her life was chaotic and often frightening, Emily maintained her determination to succeed and to take care of her younger sister. When they were adopted they traveled with their new family to ten schools in six years. Emily's excellent grades, commitment to extra curricular activities, numerous volunteer hours and her job as a preschool instructor all speak to her diligence and can-do attitude.

She will attend Sam Houston State University, where she will pursue a degree in education. Since school was the greatest constant in her younger years, Emily plans to become a teacher. She says, “I want to stand in the gap for another kid like me!"


Star Danfora is the 2015-2016 recipient of the Michell Merhige Scholarship. She is a graduate of JEB Stuart High School in Fairfax County, Virginia, where she maintained excellent grades, established herself as an athletic leader and contributed numerous hours to charitable work and mentoring young people.

Her determination, independence, faith and the support of a few caring adults helped Star overcome many obstacles. To help support herself Star acquired a Virginia Pharmacy Technician License at 16, perhaps the youngest person in the state to do so. She will be attending Old Dominion University, where she plans to major in Health Sciences, with an eye toward athletic training. Star is also a beneficiary of the William Foreman Scholarship this year.


Zainab Kamara is the 2014-2015 recipient of the Michell Merhige Scholarship. She arrived at JEB Stuart High School from war-torn Sierra Leone. She maintained honor roll grades, volunteered with elementary school students and acquired Licensed Practical Nurse certification as a first step in her career path - all in addition to becoming a U.S. citizen. She succeeded in all these endeavors as an emancipated minor without family support.

Zainab will be attending Hood College in Frederick, Maryland, where she intends to gain a BS in nursing. Zainab's eventual goal is to attend medical school in order to become a surgical nurse. She thinks that perhaps someday she will travel the world providing health services to needy children.


Melat Tesema is the first recipient of the Michell Merhige Scholarship. She distinguished herself at JEB Stuart High School in Fairfax County, Virginia, where she completed all graduation requirements in just two years after arriving from Ethiopia.

Melat led her school's recycling efforts and its college partnership. She also mentored elementary students, raised funds for those in need and performed as a member of the school dance troupe.

Her award will be used to support her studies at Penn State University, where she intends to pursue a degree in international studies.

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Michell Merhige