Office of Merit Scholarships, Fellowships & Awards

2018 Martin Scholars

We are pleased to introduce the 2018 Martin Family Foundation Scholars!

Five Martin Family Foundation Honors Scholars were selected in September 2018. The Martin Family Foundation Honors Scholarship enables Washington State Community College students of exceptional ability and outstanding achievement to complete their baccalaureate degrees at the University of Washington Seattle Campus. Individuals eligible to apply for the 2018 MHS are beginning their studies at UW in summer 2018, fall 2018 or winter 2019. The next deadline for the MHS will be in July 2019.

Three Martin Family Foundation Achievement Scholars were selected in May 2018. The Martin Achievement Scholarship selects student early in their community college career and will fund, encourage and support their study and eventual transfer to the University of Washington-Seattle Campus. Individuals selected for the 2018 MAS will continue at their respective colleges to complete their courses of study and eligibility credits for specific degree work and will transfer to the UW in 2019. The next deadline for the MAS will be April 2019.

2018 Martin Honors Scholars:

Mohammed Mahdi Alghezi, Shoreline Community College

Mohammed Alghezi

Mohammed’s dream to become a neurosurgeon is not a mere childish fantasy. While he was an avid and curious reader during his childhood, it was in October 2009, when his uncle was diagnosed with Huntington’s disease that his passion for neurobiology was ignited. His dream began to see the light after receiving a scholarship to Damascus medical school, the most prestigious school in Syria. However, during his first year in medical school, the civil war broke the harmony of his life. His college studies were in constant conflict with the movements of fear and changing nests. Eventually, unable to attend school, he started tutoring high school students in the morning and worked at his uncle’s clinic by day. Being deprived of his studies and needing to escape the suffocating silence of the night, where sounds of children’s peevish whines mixed with the echoes of angry bullets, he found solace in self-studying.

Despite his efforts to break the chains of despair with the strength of resilience, his family was forced to succumb to the successive death threats by terrorists and were forced to leave home. He crossed the Syrian borders and watched as he grew further away from the tenderness and warmth of his homeland. Living among a community of orphans, elderly and destitute people, he wanted to find a way to share the warmth of optimism. So, he found an opportunity to volunteer as a paramedic with the Lebanese Red Cross inside the camp, where he delivered necessary medication to the patients. In return, the hymns of joy and happiness quenched his desiccated soul.

After 5 months of being a camp refugee, he was fortunate to be embraced by the kindness of Seattle where he returned to college with renewed focus. At Shoreline Community College, he pursued an Associate degree in Biology with honors. He has been the vice president of the pre-med club for a year. He currently volunteers as medical interpreter and caregiver for senior and Alzheimer patients. Throughout his experience with the American health system, he realizes the urge to provide patients, regardless of their ethnicity or immigration status, with affordable medical assistance. Therefore, his goal is to be an active member of public health organizations that devote themselves to the health and well-being of the unfortunate communities.

Liban Hussein, Highline College

Liban Hussein

Born in Columbus, Ohio to Somali immigrant parents, Liban never thought he would earn an Associate’s degree in engineering or be accepted into the University of Washington’s Electrical Engineering program. With many life-changing events occurring frequently, moving from state-to-state seeking better opportunities became a norm and adjusting to unfamiliar academic and social settings proved to be all the more arduous. The road has been extremely difficult, with obstacles constantly obstructing Liban from reaching his goals. After all, he was a first-generation Somali-American student with little to no understanding of how to go about navigating the turbulent academic waters that would soon make themselves apparent.

College was an ideal instilled into Liban at a young age as his own parents’ education had been limited in Somalia. To let the challenges ahead get to him and quit meant not only failure for himself, but for his entire family. He believed that to quit meant that he was not putting in 100% of his effort into the very thing his parents had so desired for his family, namely, an education to help not only Liban succeed as an individual, but for the many generations to come. To truly make good of the sacrifices his parents made for him, Liban had to make use of every opportunity that presented itself.

Liban joined the Running Start program at Highline College as a junior in high school, as well as the ACE Mentor Program in which high school students like himself worked on a year-long project with actual engineers and present their final projects to local engineering companies and business executives. Furthermore, he worked as a Math Academic Excellence Workshop Facilitator in the Highline College MESA, where he created weekly workshops to address student confusions and concerns. At Highline College, he took advantage of many other opportunities, such as working as a Mathematics Tutor, as well as serving as the President of the National Society of Black Engineers Chapter, the first of its kind in a Washington community college. In addition to this, Liban conducted laser research with a team of 5 students and his physics professor to build a Fabry-Perot Interferometer. As for social work, Liban has worked as a lead junior event organizer and interpreter for non-profit organizations, working to help individuals like himself around the world receive basic necessities.

It seems that a tide is turning and that the possibilities are endless for Liban to pursue his dreams. Liban’s goal is to ultimately use his degree in Electrical Engineering to rebuild his homeland in Somalia, namely by revolutionizing the renewable energy sector. Although electrical engineering is Liban’s highest aspiration, he wishes to do more than this, namely by bridging the gaps between different cultures and peoples. At Highline College, he has been involved in several dialogues and tribal talks, bridging gaps between Somalis, Ethiopians, and many others. We live in a troubled world, and Liban has learned through his dialogues with students and staff alike, positive change can spring into existence, regardless of the discussion’s length. Education is key to making a positive impact, and by earning a degree in Electrical Engineering, Liban will work to not only make the lives of those easier in the Horn of Africa, but, ultimately, the world.

Liban’s Tips for Future Applicants:
Be genuine and passionate when reflecting on the required essays! Tell your story, detailing past struggles and how you’ve overcome them. Many of our journey’s have been bumpy, and we’ve needed help along the path from others, among them loved ones and friends. Mention how these individuals have helped you in the process of achieving success.

Christopher Leyva Vera, Skagit Valley College

Christopher Leyva Vera

Originally from Tijuana, Mexico, Christopher and his family moved to Whidbey Island in 2003. He went on to graduate from high school in 2012. He took some time off from school until finally deciding to head back to school in 2015 after becoming a DACA beneficiary.

Christopher enrolled at Skagit Valley College in the Fall of 2015 and quickly became involved on campus, serving on various clubs, committees, and other organizations on campus. He served as Student Body President of the Whidbey Island Campus of Skagit Valley College. He was also the Vice President and Secretary of his Phi Theta Kappa chapter. Other clubs he was involved with included Rainbow Alliance, DREAMers Club, and Journalism Club. Committees were also of importance, and that is why he served as a student representative in the following: Student Tech Fee Committee, Services & Activities Fee Committee, Diversity Committee, as well as Student Services Committee. He was employed on campus too, serving as a Program Board Coordinator under the campus’ Student Life office. As a student leader he lead several projects that helped his local community, organizing food and clothes drives to help those who needed it the most. His schedule kept him busy but his grades never suffered — he maintained a 4.0 throughout it all, making the honor roll every quarter he attended Skagit Valley College, winning a President’s medal from his college for this achievement.

He received the highest honor at Skagit Valley College, going on to win the Yates “Student of the Year” Award. His scholastic work resulted in a departmental award from the Social Sciences department at Skagit Valley College as well. Christopher was also a part of the 2018 All-Washington Academic Team; he was a top ranking member and received a medal from the Governor’s office. He has accumulated over 1,500 hours of community service work while attending school full-time. Due to his scholastic and community service endeavors, he has gone on to win various scholarships and other awards — both local and national.

Christopher credits his parents with inspiring him to go above and beyond just simply being a student. He watched as they worked tirelessly to provide both him and his brother with a future in this country. All of his achievements thus far are because of those sacrifices his parents made early on. He aims to succeed in all that he does to show not only his gratitude, but also prove to them that their hard work was not in vain and has paid off — his success does not only belong to him, but also to his family.

Christopher has been admitted to the School of Social Work and hopes to graduate with a Bachelor’s in Social Welfare, double minoring in Human Rights and Law, Societies, and Justice. He wants to continue working and being a part of programs and organizations that provide services that focus on helping disenfranchised minority groups, working towards a much more inclusive perspective that aims to connect individuals of all diverse backgrounds and experiences with the tools necessary for their own success within our society.

Christopher’s Tips for Future Applicants:
Opportunities, no matter how small they may seem to you, can open up doors for your future. Get involved both on campus and off to differentiate yourself from others. Being a great student goes far beyond just grades, it’s about how you apply all that you’ve learned in the classroom in the endeavors you choose to take on in life outside your classes.

Cara Stacy, Highline College

Cara Stacy

Cara recently graduated Highline College with her Associate of Arts, emphasizing in chemistry. She began at Highline to earn her high school diploma through the Pathway to College program. Throughout her freshman and sophomore years, Cara actively participated in the TRiO Student Support and Retention Program. She was asked to join TRiO’s student staff as Lead Tutor, working with low-income, first-generation students and students with disabilities. Cara has trained with Highline College’s Math Resource Center and earned certification as a Level Three Master Certified Tutor. She seeks to be involved with biochemical research, and is planning to major in biochemistry when she transfers to the University of Washington. Her ultimate goal is to improve the lives of others, particularly in marginalized groups, through research and service.

Cara had started her journey at Highline College as a high school dropout, having overcome substance abuse and homelessness. After reaching rock bottom, she received treatment and began her life over again with a renewed sense of purpose. Cara has been involved with Oxford House Inc., a nonprofit organization that provides housing to those in recovery from substance abuse. For this nonprofit, she has served as secretary of Chapter 15 in Washington State. Additionally, Cara has been a member of Justice Scholars Society of Change, a club at Highline that encourages community and campus involvement in students impacted by the justice system. Through overcoming her personal struggles, Cara has developed perseverance and integrity that has contributed to her educational success. Cara hopes, by sharing her story, to eliminate the stigma associated with substance abuse. She seeks to continue serving others as she transitions to the University of Washington, and is excited to discover where her journey will take her.

Cara’s Tips for Future Applicants:
Take advantage of on campus and off campus resources. Do not be afraid to share both your successes and your failures.

David Zarate, Yakima Valley College

David Zarate

David Zarate was born in Bucaramanga, Colombia. After the passing of his father, Zarate’s mother decided to move his family to the United States – first settling in East Wenatchee, WA and later Miami, FL. After graduating from high school in 2010, he worked a series of jobs and was unable to pursue higher education due to his immigration status and financial burdens. When president Obama signed the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) in June 2012, Zarate saw an opportunity to do more. He enrolled part-time at Miami Dade College and began working on his prerequisite courses to pursue a degree in chemistry. After having relocated to different parts of the country and having attended different community colleges, Zarate’s experiences as an immigrant and minority showed him a new goal: to pursue a degree in Computer Science with a focus on Data Science as a way to create change in the community. Zarate deeply believes in the power of information, and how this can help tear down barriers and narrow the divisions in our country. On June 2018, Zarate graduated with a DTA in Computer Science from Yakima Valley College and starting this fall will be pursuing a degree in Computer Science at the Allen School of Computer Science and Engineering.

2018 Martin Achievement Scholars:

Jade Cutter, Tacoma Community College

Jade’s passion for atomic physics and space flight began at a young age, spurred by Brian Greene and her grandfather’s innovative work as a manager for Boeing. As a child, she sat on the kitchen counter multiplying fractions to bake half-recipes with her grandfather, and spent evenings with her mother in secondhand bookshops reading voraciously. Growing up, she was an avid Girl Scout and loved the outdoors.

However, her potential would not be realized until much later, as her late teen years were spent struggling with addiction and homelessness. At nineteen, Jade became pregnant, but soon lost her daughter due to poor health. At twenty, she was diagnosed with cervical cancer. Her fight with it was brief and successful, but it cost her her fertility. The following years were spent recovering and training at an aikido dojo, and remembering her old passions for engineering.

At twenty-four, Jade returned to college with renewed focus. She is pursuing a Bachelor of both Electrical Engineering and Industrial Systems Engineering, with a concentration in photonics. She has been a member of Phi Theta Kappa for two years and was elected the Public Affairs officer of TCC’s Engineering Club. She oversees major club projects and acts as a liaison between the club and her community. Jade also volunteers for local kids’ science fairs and supervised a regional science team competition. She has been invited to intern at a forensic engineering company and is excited to start field work before even finishing her associate’s.

She currently trains tutors and tutors students herself at the school’s Math and Resource Center, and hopes to one day to work with a major spaceflight contractor, assisting with shielding spacecraft electronics from cosmic rays or advancing photonic laser propulsion. Jade believes the best approach to eliminating gender-based discrimination in the scientific community is for more driven, determined women to enter the industry and prove their competency. She joins the field knowing that every obstacle she conquers is one the next generation may not have to suffer.

Jennifer Franzen, Everett Community College

Jennifer is currently attending Everett Community College and is part of the college’s Honors program there. Additionally, as part of the Honors program, Jennifer will be completing a capstone project on the philosophy of Martin Heidegger over the course of the 2018-2019 academic year. She plans to transfer to the University of Washington in Fall 2019, where she intends to major in both Philosophy and Mathematics. Furthermore, she is an active member in the campus’ German club and plans to minor in Germanics. Beyond that, she hopes to earn her master’s degree in Library Science to become a librarian.

Before she started at Everett Community College in the spring of 2016 at the age of 25, Jennifer had been out of school since she was thirteen, having dropped out due to severe anxiety and panic attacks. For much of her adult life Jennifer had felt as if she was too far behind to have any hope of catching up, both academically and socially. However, overcoming this feeling, she was eventually able to find the will and motivation to give college a shot. Time and money were concerns for her, so, in an attempt to reduce the total number of classes she would need to take, she self-studied all the mathematics that she missed over the years. After spending several months teaching herself math, she was successful in placing directly into calculus. While studying, Jennifer discovered she really enjoyed math, and, as a result, eventually decided on Mathematics as one of her majors. Her newfound love of math also motivated her to apply for a peer tutoring position on campus shortly after the start of her first quarter. Through tutoring she helps her fellow students in math for both the campus’ drop-in tutoring center as well as the TRiO program.

Catherine (Kate) Tanski, North Seattle College

Kate grew up on the coast of Maine, spent ten years working on boats, and is now going to school for mechanical engineering.

Her goals as an engineer are not only to improve the efficiency and accessibility of objects and systems, but to use her education and experiences to open the door of opportunity for as many people as she can. Many years of exploration have taught Kate that she practices her values—normalizing learning challenges, non-traditional skillsets, and compassionate communication—through engineering.

When Kate was growing up she had a very difficult relationship with formal education. Instead of going to college, she went to trade school for traditional wooden boatbuilding. Working in various roles (as marine carpenter, experiential educator, deckhand, mate, assistant engineer, and marine regulatory administrator) gave her the chance to explore practical, non-academic experiences that helped her learn how she learns, and how to teach others to teach her.

Boats, shipmates, students, and the ocean have taught Kate the most valuable lessons she’s learned so far. Those lessons—caring for people and the ecosystems around us, patience with the unexpected, the vital importance of regularly learning new things, that every person has something to contribute, and that every experience has something to teach her—combined with her varied experiences, have brought Kate here, to school for mechanical engineering.

She’s finally figured out how to combine her values of service, compassion, and hard work with her strengths of creative problem solving, incremental systems improvement, and mechanical aptitude. Kate is looking forward to the adventures to come.

Kate’s Tips for Future Applicants:
There are a lot of people out there who would love to help you figure out how to write the essays, manage the deadlines, and follow all the guidelines for scholarships. They want to see you succeed. Connect with them. Nurture your community, and lean on it when you need a hand. Dream big, work hard, and ask for help when you need it.