For DonorsFor Applicants

Imagine Dragons Origins Scholarship

1st winner$3,318
2nd winner$3,317
3rd winner$3,317
4th winner$3,317
Application Deadline
Sep 14, 2021
Winners Announced
Nov 22, 2021
Education Level
Recent scholarship winners

In their decade of touring the world, Grammy-winning band Imagine Dragons saw firsthand that music knows no boundaries. It's a universal language that connects people from all walks of life, backgrounds, and cultures. 

Unfortunately, many of those who come to America from other countries face incredible educational and financial challenges. In an effort to honor the unifying spirit of music, the band's scholarship supports and amplifies their voices, knowing that diversity makes us all stronger.

The Imagine Dragons Origins Scholarship will help four refugee, immigrant, or first-generation American students to achieve their educational dreams with $3,000 each.

Selection Criteria:
Essay, Musician, Creativity, Purpose, Vision, Passion
Published March 15, 2021
Essay Topic

Please tell us about your cultural experience as a refugee, immigrant, or first-generation American, and how the challenges you've faced have shaped your dreams and vision for the future.

200–1000 words

Winning Applications

Sai Phut
Belmont Abbey CollegeCharlotte, NC
My name is Sai Phut. I am a refugee kid from Thailand and I have looked at War in its face. My family had been in the midst of the longest civil war in human history, the Karen Conflict, which no one knows about. In the refugee camps, the United Nations only came once a month and they weren't enough to keep us "comfortable". I remember starving most nights and all we could eat was rice. I have seen all the horrors from rape, to murder, and the evil that is in this world. I had friends that I would hang out with every day to get our minds off of the harshness of our lives. We would go down to rivers to skip rocks and swim or even hike the mountains that surrounded our village and chased waterfalls. When I was 7 years old, In 2009, we moved to the United States after years of waiting to be approved by the UN. Everything felt so new but from the beginning, I knew that I wanted to help people. As the years go on, I began to search for me what my goals and dreams were. I became involved and played for a non-profit Christian soccer club organization called the Charlotte Eagles. From there, I have learned all about life with a ball at my feet. As I looked back on my experience in the refugee camps, I began to look at the neighborhoods around me. They were rundown and some families were living from paycheck to paycheck, and kids are influenced by bad people around them. From there I realized that I wanted to help those kids. Just like how my compassionate, loving, and caring coaches have mentored me, I want to mentor those kids as well. I want to use a soccer ball to connect to families that are from similar backgrounds as me. I am currently playing Division 2 soccer at Belmont Abbey College, but I feel like I am called somewhere else. Right now, I am planning on transferring to either NC State or UNCC to study at top sports management programs. I am praying for some financial aid so that I will not come out of those colleges in debt. After college, I want to give back and work with the Charlotte Eagles because they have helped me so much in my life. Since they are a non-profit organization, they do not have a set salary or hourly wage for their staff members. All of them get paid by the kindness and donations of other people. It will be harder to do this work if I am in debt from loans and college. I am in dire and desperate need of financial support. With the money from this scholarship, it will help me achieve my goal of being a mentor to younger kids. Poverty is a huge issue, even in our own backyards. I want to get these kids out of the bad neighborhoods and teach them to become good men and women like how the Charlotte Eagles' soccer coaches have done for me. I truly feel inspired to be the light in this world after seeing so much darkness in my own life.
israel balikolo
University of ArizonaPhoenix, AZ
There have been many life experiences of mine that have helped shape me into the person that I am today, but the one experience that has had the greatest impact on me would have to be the fact that I was born in Congo, Brazzaville. I was born in a refugee camp and life was extremely hard. When my mother gave birth to me, we were so poor that she could not afford to get me any infant formula. My mother would just drink water and breast feed me but since she was not eating I was basically just drinking water because her breast milk had no formula. At the refugee camp we would be given a sack of rice and oil and that is what we had to survive off of for the month. It is only by the grace of God that my family and I are alive. We lived in impossible conditions and I am choking up as I am writing this, just thinking about the things that we had to endure. I remember my father telling me a story of the time he got malaria when we were in the refugee camp. My father was extremely ill and he could not go to the hospital because we could barely afford to eat. My father had malaria for two weeks then he started to get better and my mother had some money which she used to get my father some medication and a cup of yogurt. At the time my father had not eaten in two weeks. My mother gave my father the cup of yogurt and at the sight I became hysterical because I wanted to eat the yogurt. My father wanted to split it with me, but my mother said no because my father had not eaten and she wanted him to gain his strength back. I could not have been older than three years old at the time. My mother had to make the hard decision of giving the yogurt to my father who was recovering from malaria and sacrificed her child. That is the kind of decision that no one should have to make. My family and I eventually came to the U.S. when I was four years old. Those four years of my life have had the most impact on me. At a young age I remember thinking that life is not fair. Why was it that I had to be born into poverty when I am an innocent child who has done nothing to deserve what life was throwing at me. I would also ask myself why do other people get to be born into wealth and an easy upbringing? This had changed my perspective on life and in a way it stole some of my innocence because most children my age had the luxury of not knowing how hard life can be, their only concern was eating ice cream after dinner. As children we can sometimes take things for granted because we think that those things will always be there, but since I came from nothing it made me appreciate the things in my life that many people would take for granted. I remember telling myself that I was privileged enough to make it out of those circumstances and I know many people who never made it out, so I had to make something out of my life. This is part of the reason why I always took school so seriously. I am privileged enough to live in a country that sees education as a human right. Back in Africa people need to pay money to go to school which means that if your family can not afford it you can not go to school even if you are among the brightest. This made me work hard in school even when my peers just want to goof around. At the start of my freshman year I told myself that I would not accept a grade lower than an A. Some people may say that I am too hard on myself which could be true at times, but I knew that I do not come from a wealthy family and I am not into sport, so my best bet into going to college would be through my grades. I believe that God does not let anything happen to us that we can not handle. I went through those tough times to build my character and they made me the person that I am today.
Trishna Dahal
Tufts UniversityLouisville, KY
I grew up in a refugee camp in Nepal where women were discouraged from pursuing further education. I was only a child but expected to learn how to cook and clean for my future husband. My mother, however, had different plans and pushed me to pursue higher education when we immigrated to America. Once we had immigrated to America, my parents did not stay in one place for long. I avoided opening up to others and making friends because we moved around frequently, and I eventually had to leave them behind. Making new friends was difficult for me because I was a shy kid, and I was also one of the few colored students. Even when I did make friends, I felt isolated simply because my background and upbringing were so strikingly different from theirs. Throughout middle and high school, my parents pushed me to succeed academically but never allowed me to fail and learn from my mistakes. This pressure to be the perfect daughter and student made me afraid to ask for help and admit that I didn’t understand something. It took me years to grow out of this fear and begin voicing my questions because I had never struggled with any classes before Computational Thinking--where I was unfamiliar with the content. I had contemplated quitting and almost gave in to doubt before I joined Girls Who Code because I wasn’t sure if I belonged in the Computer Science Academy. I didn’t have any friends in the class, and I wasn’t used to struggling so much, so I thought that I wasn’t cut out for STEM. When I admitted my doubts and fears at a GWC meeting, the other members persuaded me to give computer science and myself another try. Computer science was the first class to challenge me, and I eventually grew to love it because it was engaging. Many of the obstacles I’ve faced as a refugee and immigrant have been internal, for example, my obsession with doing everything perfectly stemmed from my upbringing in an Asian immigrant household. And I’m thankful to have had the opportunity to fail at something because it helped me conquer my fear of being imperfect and showed me that I was capable of more than I had given myself credit for. However, I still lacked confidence, and multiple teachers expressed concern because of that. They gave me the push I needed to join the Louisville Girls Leadership club. I joined hoping to become confident and comfortable in myself, and to improve my public speaking skills. But I walked away with much more than that. I befriended several amazing girls from that program, and the issues we discussed during our meetings sparked my interest in activism and giving back to my community. I competed in the ASPEN Challenge later that year and had the opportunity to create a non-profit organization to solve an issue in my community. My teammates and I chose to help refugees and immigrants at Fern Creek become more involved in the community. The small grant we received allowed us to kick-off our organization, In2grated, and over a dozen ESL students attended the kick-off meeting. My experiences growing up inspired me to create In2grated with my teammates because it was an issue that we had a unique perspective on, and our community was more culturally diverse than other schools so it was the most effective idea to implement. We won an originality award and received further funding to continue our program. Unfortunately, we’ve had to postpone our meetings due to Covid-19 because our school district is one of the few that’s still online. I hope to use my experiences to create a support system to help other refugees and immigrants in my community discuss their mental health issues and fears without the stigma associated with them in so many immigrant households. The challenges I’ve experienced as a refugee and immigrant have given me a unique perspective. And I hope to use that to create a program that will help other refugees and immigrants destigmatize mental health in their families. I also hope to pursue a career in computer science and mentor young girls/POC to increase diversity in STEM and give them access to high-paying jobs that they otherwise may not have considered.
Hiniye Madelaine
University of RichmondRichmond, VA
I was born in a refugee camp in Tanzania, southeast Africa, and I came to this foreign country when I was six years old. I am the second eldest of nine kids and the oldest girl. In this space, I am always asked to put myself second and was told that you will get rewarded when you are selfless, particularly as a daughter. I always put my education on hold because I was expected to become a housewife therefore, education is pointless or at least secondary. In my culture and tradition, it is very common for the man to be the one who gets both an education and to be the primary voice in the household. I am very determined to break those barriers and start a new tradition. Having loving parents who had no formal education of their own is difficult. They valued my education in theory, as part of the struggle to find my place in America, but at the end of the day, there is still that strong cultural pull towards an eventual role as a housewife. Being the eldest girl in this context has provided many life skills, but often you have to drop everything to support the family when something comes up. During high school, I found my aspirations diminished by a lack of imagination and the inability to find a model path I could follow. I stopped investing in the education side of things and graduated early under the mistaken belief that simply moving on to the next step would fix my concerns. I'm not sure that I was emotionally or academically ready to move to college, and I spent the early part of the semester working like crazy out of fear, spite, anger & curiosity of what would happen if I tried. That first semester flew by and before I knew it I had become a college student. Earning a 4.0 validated the hard work, validated the decision to leave H.S. early, but mostly validated me to myself! It turns out that investing in myself was contagious, I ended up working a full-time job during my spring semester. During the pandemic which was my summer semester, I worked 2 full-time jobs and went to school full time. I was elected Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society Vice President for my college and was in charge of the recruitment committee and where we recently got our recruitment numbers above the 15 percent goal we had set. I’ve been on the Dean’s list and the President’s honor rolls every semester since I’ve been at Reynolds. Recently I received a promotion at the non-profit Feed More Just after passing my first anniversary on the job. Now I find myself dreaming of endless possibilities. I recently got my Associate in Paralegal Studies with a 3.6 GPA and transferring to the University of Richmond to finish it off as a Bachelor. I hope to become the first college graduate in my household and to be an example for my young siblings. I hope to become an immigration or criminal justice lawyer. My goal is to fight for justice and to help those who feel helpless or voiceless find their path. I hope to live abroad after college and do some community service through the Fulbright program in the future. I hope to return to my home country one day to teach girls English and to help them discover and explore themselves as strong women. I have achieved much in a short time by pushing myself past the limits I set and it has given me aspirations and dreams. I now believe that if you want something to happen or if you want to achieve the impossible, you have to grab it, claim it to be yours through hard work.


When is the scholarship application deadline?

The application deadline is Sep 14, 2021. Winners will be announced on Nov 22, 2021.

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