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.

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. In addition to her faculty-led research experiences, Mary was an active member of the UNC Bioethics Society Research Team.

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

Mary aims for a future in genetic research and gene therapy as a R&D scientist in biotechnology.

What Mary has to say about being a Balkhi Foundation Scholar: “The Balkhi Foundation scholarship allows students like me reach their collegiate goals by serving as a bridge for students from disadvantaged backgrounds to continue their education. I am grateful to the Balkhi Foundation for helping me afford an education at one of the best universities in the US and enabling me to achieve my goal of becoming a molecular biologist.”

You can find Mary on LinkedIn.

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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