The Balkhi Foundation is proud to showcase the incredible alumni of its Higher Education Scholarship.

The Balkhi Foundation is proud to honor the students who have completed their undergraduate career as a Balkhi Foundation Scholar. Each of these outstanding young adults were selected as high school seniors based on their commitment to excellence and academic success despite multiple obstacles. During their undergraduate career, they continued to demonstrate the tenacity and dedication that personify a Balkhi Foundation Scholar.

Daniel Simone
2024 Graduate of Princeton University

Daniel Simone is a graduate of Princeton University with a degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering with certificates in Sustainable Energy, Robotics & Intelligent Systems, and Russian Language & Culture. At university, Daniel nurtured his passion for engineering with a deep dedication to Princeton Racing Electric – a student-led racing team – where he served as an engineering leader as well as pit crew chief, treasurer, and team principal.

In addition to Princeton Racing Electric, Daniel was active in undergraduate research – his senior thesis, inspired by his passion for EVs, “Design of a Universal Compact Vehicle Control Unit for Formula Electric Vehicles” won the Bradley Dickinson Award for System Design and earned him membership in Sigma Xi. In addition, he is an active member of the Slavic student community on campus.

Daniel’s advice to undergraduates is “I would tell other students to not be afraid to just reach out – club leaders, professors, classmates, and even other staff are more than happy to help. More often than not, they are just happy to see that someone is interested in their work.”

Following graduation, Daniel will join Ford’s Advanced Product Development and Tech team for a summer internship, then return to Princeton for his Master of Engineering in Electrical and Computer Engineering. He plans to pursue a PhD in Electrical Engineering afterwards.

What Daniel has to say about being a Balkhi Foundation Scholar: “I am very thankful to the Balkhi Foundation for helping me chase my dreams! Without the scholarship, I doubt that I could have been able to afford life on campus without a job or participate in exciting extracurricular activities!”

You can find Daniel on LinkedIn.

Dat "David" Ho
2024 Graduate of Texas A & M University

David Ho is a graduate of Texas A & M University with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. While in college, David discovered a deep love of robotics. David participated in years of in-depth research within the Unmanned System Lab at Texas A & M while also cultivating a dedicated group of robotics enthusiasts outside of the research lab. His work in college culminated in the creation of Legolas, an open source bipedal robot. 

David’s advice to undergraduates is “Take a break and go home; your parents would always be happy to see you.” 

Following graduation, David plans to attend graduate school for mechanical engineering with a focus in robotics. His ultimate goal is to create novel technology that improves the world. 

What David says about being a Balkhi Foundation Scholar: “I am more than honored to be a Balkhi Scholar and to receive the Balkhi Foundation Scholarship that has helped make college possible for students like me.”

You can find David on LinkedIn or GitHub

Micah McGrath
2023 Graduate of Rutgers University

Micah McGrath is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Criminal Justice with a minor in Biological Sciences. Micah was a member of her university’s Criminal Justice Honor Society and a dedicated member of the Women’s Ultimate Frisbee Team. Prior to graduation, Micah served as a Research Fellow at the National Intelligence University. 

Micah’s advice to undergraduates is to reach out for help to fellow peers, professors, parents, counselors, and others within the University system. Reaching out for help and reaching out to make connections can be scary, but it is well worth it in the end. 

After graduation, Micah immediately entered the workforce in private investigation. As she continues to work within criminal justice and investigation she plans to continue to explore her passion for environmental justice. 

You can find Micah on Linkedin

Johanna Powell
2023 Graduate of the University of Miami

Johanna Powell is a graduate of the University of Miami with a degree in Health Science with a minor in Chemistry and Psychology. In addition to nurturing her love of dance with the Miami Motion Dance Team, Johanna served as a research guide for UQUEST while in college. UQUEST is an educational research and development project that paired Johanna with underserved children in the community with the goal of serving minority youth from underserved and economically disadvantaged backgrounds. 

Johanna encourages all undergraduates to take the time to choose friends carefully while in college. The opportunity to make friends with a wide variety of experiences is a unique opportunity that can help facilitate your social and academic life.    

Johanna aims to continue her education in a Physician Assistant graduate program. She hopes to become a skilled surgeon so she can dedicate her time to traveling throughout the globe to provide care to those who need it most.

Gabriela Varela Guadiana
2023 Graduate of Texas A & M University

Gabriela Varela Guadiana is a graduate of Texas A & M University with a degree in Animal Science with a minor in Spanish. Gabriela preserved throughout her undergraduate career despite numerous personal and institutional obstacles including the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic and a once in a generation Texas snowstorm. Throughout her time in college, Gabriela has had a keen focus on animal welfare, community service, and mentorship. As a leader in her university’s Human Environmental Animal Team, she has advocated for responsible pet ownership and actively participated in philanthropic events for the community for which she was named President of the Year. She has also served as a mentor for other first generation students at her university while completing undergraduate research in animal behavior.

Gabriela’s advice for undergraduate students is to become aware of important dates and deadlines to prevent yourself from getting behind. She also encourages all students, but especially low-income and first generation students, to seek out help and support from others whenever possible.

Following graduation, Gabriela joined a veterinary diagnostic and research laboratory. She plans to continue her education in the future with the ultimate goal of improving the lives of animals through active participation in Animal Health Policy.

What Gabriela says about being a Balkhi Foundation Scholar: “The Balkhi Foundation Scholarship has helped me tremendously and I wouldn’t have been able to afford my education without it. They aid low-income students like myself and give us the chance to pursue our dreams.”

You can find Gabriela on LinkedIn.

Nada Maher
2023 Graduate of Florida Atlantic University

Nada Maher is a graduate of Florida Atlantic University with a degree in Biology. Nada was a member of on campus research labs and has presented at both regional and state conferences. Prior to graduation, Nada was a member of the College of Science’s Soar-in-4 cohort of high-achieving students under the mentorship of the deans.

Nada’s advice to undergraduates is to use your network of peers to seek advice about classes, as collaboration makes the college experience easier. She also recommends students take charge of due dates in advice while using a planner. Above all else, she encourages students to be true to themselves and explore their potential in college through clubs and activities.

Nada’s ultimate goal is to attend medical school with an interest in internal medicine. After graduation, Nada entered the workforce while preparing for medical school.

What Nada has to say about being a Balkhi Foundation Scholar: “The Balkhi foundation is a generous scholarship group that really sets their passion in aiding bright students by providing the opportunity and resources to succeed in college.”

Sade McIntosh
2023 Graduate of Carnegie Mellon University

Sade McIntosh a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University majored in International Relations and Politics. Sade completed her bachelor’s degree ahead of her peers due to her diligence in completing an associates degree while in high school. Sade’s time at Carnegie Mellon was defined by her regular placement on the Dean’s List and her engagement in the University’s Women in Politics club, where she was a strong advocate for political activism and advocacy on behalf of women in politics.

Sade encourages all undergraduates to take time for self care while in university and to take advantage of office hours and other academic assistance provided by your university.

Sade aims to become a peaceful advocate for change in developing countries by challenging systematic injustice and making technology, healthcare, and education more accessible and equitable. Sade will begin her career working for the Department of Justice. In the future Sade hopes to attend law school to continue her studies.

What Sade has to say about being a Balkhi Foundation Scholar: “I am truly honored to be a Balkhi Foundation Scholar. The opportunities that I have been granted opened doors for me that otherwise would have been shut.”

Maya Patterson
2023 Graduate of the University of Pittsburgh

Maya Patterson graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in Chemistry with a certificate in the Conceptual Foundations of Medicine. Her time at the University of Pittsburgh was defined by a deep commitment to research. Throughout her undergraduate career she pursued both applied and basic research opportunities. She served in a research position under Dr. Elizabeth Krans at Magee Womens Hospital, examining the relationship between obstetric health care utilization and maternal and neonatal outcomes in women with psychosocial risk factors such as substance abuse. Maya was awarded with both the Rita R. and David A. Rossi Sr Award and Mary Louise Theodore Prize for her leadership abilities, academic excellence, and commitment to research. Maya plans to remain active in healthcare research in preparation for medical school. 

Maya advises all undergraduates to make time for introspection. She is proud of the personal growth she has experienced through self-reflection. She notes that it is easy to lose yourself in the crowd of those around you, but finding what is truly important to you will make you a much happier student. While you’re finding yourself, you will find peace.

Maya’s goal is to become a physician and develop innovative ways to improve quality of life for patients around the world. She is deeply thankful for the Balkhi Foundation’s support through her undergraduate career.

You can find Maya on LinkedIn.

Amelia Hixon
2023 Indian River State College Graduate

Amelia Hixon is a graduate with highest honors of Indian River State College with a major in Elementary Education and the Balkhi Foundation’s first Rotary Scholar. Amelia attributes her early graduation to the opportunities she had to obtain her associates degree while in high school through the dual enrollment program. Amelia’s time in college was defined by the unique opportunities offered by her university – including the chance to participate in a hands-on safety training program with local law enforcement.

Amelia’s recommendation for students entering college is to strike a balance between studies and enjoyable activities. Taking breaks to socialize, go for walks, or visit with family can help you to refocus on your schoolwork when you return.

Amelia’s ultimate goal is to become a teacher within the Department of Defense Education Activity to teach children whose parents are deployed in the military. Amelia will begin teaching immediately following graduation in St. Lucie County as an elementary school teacher.

What Amelia says about being a Balkhi Foundation Scholar: “I feel honored to have received a scholarship from the Balkhi Foundation. It has helped me in my academic career which I am most grateful for.”

Megan Goulet
2023 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Graduate

Megan Goulet graduated from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute with a degree in Computer Science and a specialization in Algorithms and Theory. While at Rensselaer, Megan’s time was split between two passions – programming and community outreach. Megan held a variety of programming based positions during her time at Rensselaer, including serving as a full-stack developer for a health-based research project and as a software engineering intern at Google. Megan has continued to serve her passion of community outreach as a mentor and leader within student organizations on campus dedicated to bringing computer science curriculum to K-12 students.

Megan recommends that all undergraduates dedicate themselves to building daily study habits. Even with the experience of Advanced Placement classes in high school, the unique environment of college requires a different studying approach than most students are used to.

Megan aims to become a full-stack developer in a position that allows her to make a positive impact on society.

What Megan has to say about being a Balkhi Foundation Scholar: I was pleasantly surprised when I heard that the Balkhi Scholarship has decided to donate an additional scholarship to their well-performing community. During this unprecedented time, the Balkhi Scholarship has really helped me continue to pay for tuition, and I am very grateful for their generous donation.

You can find Megan on LinkedIn.

Mary Huang
2023 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate

Mary Huang graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a degree in Biological Sciences. Mary’s undergraduate experience was especially defined by her participation in molecular biology research labs within UNC’s School of Medicine and School of Pharmacy.

Mary encourages undergraduates to be open to exploring new ideas throughout their college career. Mary describes college as a time of growth, maturity, and learning about your strengths and weaknesses and challenges undergraduates to meet peers who can support and encourage you throughout college.

Mary aims for a future as a biomedical researcher in biotechnology.

What Mary has to say about being a Balkhi Foundation Scholar: “The support, generosity, and compassion of the Balkhi Foundation truly helped pave the way for me to earn my degree, and I am inspired by how it is steadfast in its mission to make college more affordable for deserving students.

Marco Polimeni
2023 Stevens Institute of Technology Graduate

Marco Polimeni graduated from Stevens Institute of Technology with both his bachelors and masters degrees in Computer Science with a certificate in Machine Learning. Marco’s attributes his accelerated completion of his degrees and his success in computer science to attending a technical university with an insistence on keeping a strong subject area focus. While at Stevens, Marco completed competitive internship experiences with BlackRock and Amazon and served as a teaching assistant, President of the Computer Science club, and informal mentor to other students.

Marco’s recommendation for students entering college is to take the opportunity to talk with others on campus. Marco recommends building shared investment – such as by playing a board game together – to keep the connection fun and low stress.

Marco’s ultimate goal is to make a difference in the technology industry by applying machine learning and artificial intelligence to community service. Marco will enter the workforce immediately following graduation as a Software Engineer at Amazon.

What Marco has to say about being a Balkhi Foundation
Scholar: “The foundation’s value of charity through supporting students and encouraging community service inspires how I look to use my degree for the benefit of others!”

You can find Marco on LinkedIn.

Chhun Hong
2022 University of Texas at Austin Graduate

Chhun Hong graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a major in Electrical and Computer Engineering. Chhun’s undergraduate career has had a sustained focus on mentorship – both in seeking out experiences for himself and in mentoring the next generation of college students through community service. He was involved in IEEE and  Engineers for a Sustainable World. His team also won the Senior Design project that aimed to predict COVID-19 effects on the NBA. Outside of school, Chhun served as the Director of Junior Staff at the Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership Seminar at TX Gulf Coast.

For Chhun, the critical piece of advice he offers all undergraduates is to put themselves out there and meet as many people as possible. A current acquaintance/friend can be a connection to a job opportunity in the future. Also, don’t rush to graduate, and enjoy your college years!

Chhun aims to become a Product Manager for a technology company. He also hopes to one day return to his home country of Cambodia to improve water supply access for rural residents.

What Chhun says about being a Balkhi Foundation Scholar: “I am truly lucky and honored to have received the Balkhi Foundation Scholarship that aims to empower and enhance the lives of many First-Generation students like myself.”

You can find Chhun on LinkedIn. Check out Chhun’s Blog on Medium as well!

Jennifer Vasquez Gonzalez
2022 University of Florida Graduate

Jennifer Vasquez Gonzalez graduated with honors at the University of Florida with a double major in Biology and Behavioral and Cognitive Neuroscience. Jennifer’s undergraduate experience was underscored by a commitment to community service on and off campus despite entering university at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic.  During her time at UF, Jennifer had the opportunity to be Vice-President of GSA, be diversity chair of Omega Phi Alpha, and be a teaching assistant for numerous classes including chemistry, social psychology, and microbiology.

For Jennifer, the critical piece of advice she offers all undergraduates is “Stay focused on your studies to make sure you succeed, but also make sure to have a little fun and enjoy your time there. Go to football games and hang out with friends, you only go to college once so you might as well make it memorable.”

Jennifer aims to continue her education in medical school with the ultimate goal of becoming a pediatrician working in underserved communities.

You can find Jennifer on LinkedIn.

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