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Maida Brkanovic Memorial Scholarship

Funded by
2 winners, $500 each
Application Deadline
Oct 16, 2023
Winners Announced
Nov 6, 2023
Education Level
High School, Undergraduate
Recent scholarship winners

In August of 2020, we tragically lost Maida Brkanovic, our beloved daughter, who had a contagious enthusiasm for life.

Maida loved helping others. She cared deeply about humans and animals. Some of her help was directed towards juvenile diabetes, cancer research, MS research and support, the elderly who lived by themselves, and all animal welfare. She did many walks, bakes, and volunteered her free time.

In light of her selfless attitude and to keep her wonderful legacy alive, the Maida Brkanovic Memorial Scholarship will support one student who emulates Maida’s lifestyle through their own selfless actions. 

To be eligible, you must be a recent immigrant and/or a first-generation high school or undergraduate student in any field of study. You will have the opportunity to write about your experience as a recent immigrant and/or a first-generation student and how that’s influenced your beliefs about life.

Selection Criteria:
Essay, Selfless, Community Service, Recent Immigrant/First-Generation, Ambition
Published August 16, 2023
Essay Topic

Please write about your experience as a recent immigrant and/or a first-generation student and how that’s influenced your beliefs about life.

400–800 words

Winning Applications

Alexander Kang
Cherry Hill High School EastCherry Hill, NJ
I was fortunate enough to have embraced my cultural heritage from a young age as a Korean American with immigrant parents, attending Korean school and acquiring fluency in the language by speaking Korean at home. The Korean School of Southern New Jersey (KSSNJ) allowed me to interact with fellow Korean American peers and teachers, and I learned about the importance of speaking out against injustice and showing compassion, drawing inspiration from Korean politician and independence activist Kim Gu. Kim Gu was an integral leader in the Korean independence movement against Japanese colonial rule from 1910 to 1945, participating in the revolutionary March 1st movement and founding the Korean Liberation Army, which engaged in guerrilla warfare against Japanese forces. Kim Gu endured constant surveillance, harassment, and numerous assassination attempts by Japanese colonial authorities, who perceived him as a threat to their dominion over Korea. Learning about this important period in Korean history deeply moved me, inspiring me to embrace the values and principles of Kim Gu as a first-generation Korean American. My role as a traditional percussion leader and performer has highlighted my desire to open the eyes of audiences of all races and backgrounds to our cultural heritage through the power of music. Our percussion team has been honored to participate in numerous events and competitions, one of which was the 2021 Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage (AAPI) Festival, showcasing the rich cultural diversity of the Asian American community. Through our performances, we fostered understanding, appreciation, and unity among different cultures, promoting the values of inclusivity and respect. I founded “Patch heART Works” during the global pandemic last year as a way to channel my passion for art to provide a source of joy, peace, and healing to those who may lack the support they need. Although we started small, with my sister and I instructing monthly art classes for senior citizens and hanging up wall decorations at the Laurel Brook Rehabilitation & Healthcare Center, we quickly gained new members who shared our vision. We had the honor of decorating the Cherry Hill Township Mayor Angulo's office and hosted multiple arts and crafts activities at the Cherry Hill public library for children and teens. These activities were designed to inspire creativity, reduce stress, and promote social connection among the participants. Our activities have consistently been met with positive feedback from participants. Many of the senior citizens we worked with appreciated the opportunity to make crafts and enjoy the wall decorations, and we received admiration and praise from parents who brought their kids to the library, even asking if we would be willing to host arts and crafts activities at youth group events and birthday parties. I am grateful for the opportunity and privilege to give back to my community through my love for art because it’s “just what a human being should do”. I am also an instrumental performer for the Edelweiss Ensemble, a student-run music community service organization. I had the privilege of bringing joy and comfort to the elderly residents through my music. Through these concerts, I have witnessed firsthand the positive impact that music can have on the emotional well-being of people. Being part of the Edelweiss Ensemble has allowed me to combine my passion for music with my desire to make a difference in the lives of others, fostering a sense of community and connection that is truly invaluable. I also tutored teens in science, reading, and math, which demonstrates my unwavering dedication to their educational growth and success. I also invested time and effort into preparing engaging lessons and tailored learning materials, ensuring that their specific needs were met. Moreover, compassion and kindness have been at the core of my interactions with these young students. Understanding the challenges they face in their academic journey, I approached our sessions with empathy and patience. I have strived to act as an approachable mentor and role model by creating a safe and supportive environment where they felt comfortable asking questions, expressing their difficulties, and seeking guidance. By showing genuine care and understanding, I aimed to nurture their self-confidence and motivate them to overcome obstacles. By actively engaging in these activities, I have worked to embody Kim Gu’s moral and ethical principles in my community. Through my dedication to speaking out against injustice as a first-generation student, I have found the importance of cultural preservation through traditional percussion performance and promoting compassion through Patch heART Works, the Edelweiss Ensemble, and P2P. I strive to contribute to a more inclusive and understanding society in my community.
Annitah Nakandi
Boston UniversityWORCESTER, MA
As a first-generation student who is also an immigrant, I have gone through a lot of hardships and I've seen others in my same situation also face these same challenges. I realized that so many people need help just like myself but they often can't afford to gain access to what they need. I vowed to help others where I could even if I didn't have much to give. I realized that the most valuable thing in my possession is my time when I discovered that I could volunteer and work at non-profits that serve immigrants and refugees from all different backgrounds. Ever since I had that realization in high school, I have never stopped serving my community and I continue to do so even after I graduate. As I mentioned, it all started in high school when I volunteered for the first time. I've volunteered and worked in non-profits for most of my youth because I've always found it rewarding to give back even when I didn't have much of my own. Through this work, I have been given the honor to educate many. I ran multiple after-school programs where I tutored school-age children, taught English to adults and provided resources and information on important matters such as covid-19 and the vaccine. There are many things that my community isn't educated on, whether it be because of the language barrier or because no one ever took the time to inform them. That is why one day I chose to share my experiences battling with mental health. In many minority communities, mental health isn't taken seriously or is simply brushed aside so many just suffer in silence. I wanted to change this narrative, at least for the people I was working with. After I finished telling my story, I gave out pieces of paper with information on how to seek help and the multiple ways we can all take care of ourselves and each other. I wanted and still want to work toward a future where mental health and mental illness aren't stigmatized. These experiences have led me to realize that I want to be an educator and make an impact. It's not an easy role to fulfill and I have had many moments when I reconsidered what I should do with my future but at the end of it all I always come back to education and teaching because it brings me joy. Being a part of a minority group has taught me that we have to be there for each other in any way that we can. My way of supporting my community is through providing information and education because I strongly believe that knowledge is power. This is because well-informed individuals can then make the best decisions for themselves. I want to empower my people so that they can make decisions they feel good and confident about. Being an immigrant made me realize that we all need each other and that the way American society is currently set up doesn't allow us to easily be in community and help one another. That is why we have to put in the extra effort to not only ask for help but to also offer it. Due to my beliefs surrounding community and taking care of each other, I have decided to study education and become an educator in my community. My experience as an immigrant has awakened a sense of purpose and passion in me. Though life is hard for me and others like me, I can wake up and proudly say that I am working towards the betterment of my life and theirs. I am passionate about what I do and I am proud to be an immigrant.
Rahaf Hamour
University of Colorado Denver/Anschutz Medical CampusDenver, CO
Yas J
University of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphia, PA
Safwan Agmayah
University of California-Santa CruzSanta Cruz, CA
From the first breath I took, I have experienced violence. I was born on March 22, 2003, and the U.S. invasion of Iraq started on March 20th. There had been a bombing or explosion of some sort in the hospital that I was born in. I don’t remember this, but I have carried a long-term effect of it to this day. I lost some hearing in my right ear. I can hear with my right ear, but I do realize the difference. My right ear feels blocked compared to my left ear. This challenge resulted in me having to sit in front of every class in middle school. I didn’t mind this because I knew it was for the better, it made it easier for me to learn. Another way that I overcame this challenge was by being provided a hearing aid. In 2007, there was a suicide bomb that had detonated by our elementary school. The terrorist group targeted a Christian school, and it led to many deaths and injuries. I wasn’t old enough to go to school at that age, since I was only four years old. However, I remember it, vividly. I remember the fear in my parents' eyes and the rush to school. We went there in hopes of finding my brother, who was only a year older than me. I remember seeing the sight of debris from the classrooms. I remember hearing yelling for their children and children screaming in pain. Even though my family and I left Iraq in 2011, four years after the bombing, this was still one of the driving forces on why my parents decided to leave Iraq. That decision changed my life because of where I am today. This challenge made me who I am today because it showed me how to be grateful. These types of things happen every day to countless people, and I am grateful I made it out. Having come from a foreign country, making it harder for me to do well in school. In the 5th grade, when students were reading “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe,” I was learning grammar and punctuation. While students had elective classes like art and music in middle school, I had ELD. A program for English learners that we had to test out of. While my friends were taking college prep classes, I challenged myself and took Honors and AP classes. In the end, I still read “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe,” I still made it out of ELD and joined ASB, and became the Treasurer. I have had to work harder than a lot of my peers to get on the same level as them. I remember back in second grade, in Iraq, we were learning a new language. We were learning Assyrian Aramaic, a different dialect of Aramaic than the one I speak. This language was difficult for me to learn due to being raised to learn a different language and going to school to learn another language. I was struggling, the teacher made me get up and read in front of the class. I failed, and he slapped me across the face. It wasn’t a little slap on the hand, like when you do to a kid to stop them from touching something they are not supposed to be touching like something hot or electricity. This slap was loud. It made the kids in my class quiet. I remember sitting back down and my cheek stinging. That type of learning is different from the learning I have had in this country. I am grateful for this country because of how many opportunities it has given me, opportunities that I did not have back home. I have received a great education so far, and I want to further my education through college. I want to be the first person in my family with a degree.
Sajini Kodituwakku
New York UniversityStaten Island, NY


When is the scholarship application deadline?

The application deadline is Oct 16, 2023. Winners will be announced on Nov 6, 2023.

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