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.


“Fariha”

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”

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”

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”

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

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

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.

michelle closeup

Michell Merhige