Office of Merit Scholarships, Fellowships & Awards

2021 Martin Scholars

We are pleased to introduce the 2021 Martin Family Foundation Scholars!

Three new Martin Family Foundation Honors Scholars were selected in September 2021. 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 in Seattle. The next deadline for the MHS will be July 2022.

Five new Martin Family Foundation Achievement Scholars were selected in May 2021. Below, please find brief bios and tips for future applicants shared by these Scholars. 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. Individuals selected for the 2021 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 2022. The next deadline for the MAS will be April 2022. 

2021 Martin Honors Scholars:

2021 Martin Achievement Scholars:

Ricardo Franca, Seattle Central College

Born in small town in the countryside of Brazil, Ricardo grew up with limited resources, and was raised by uneducated and abusive parents who understood only violence and punishment as a means to “educate” their children. As a gay youth, he was constantly bullied for being different, which only added to the abuse of his childhood. While leaving home at the age of 17 was one of the most difficult and important decisions he has made, he learned independence, and how to face his fears and insecurities. At the age of 29, Ricardo began a new chapter, leaving everything behind and moving to the United States. Arriving in a foreign country with no place to live, no friends or family, no money, no job and being “illegal” was enormously challenging. He began taking classes as soon as he arrived in America, believing that education was the path to liberation. Supporting himself and finding money for tuition was sometimes a struggle, but he persevered these past ten years despite occasional setbacks.

Ricardo is enthusiastic about biological sciences, believing that there is great potential to improve the quality of people’s lives through the study, development, and application of biological research. That belief has led him to pursue a degree in Medical Laboratory Science at the University of Washington as the next step in his journey.

One of the projects he is most proud of was being part of the Governor’s 2018 Student Voter Registration Challenge. For weeks he was one of a group of volunteers who canvassed the Seattle Central College campus helping lots of folks register for the first time and talking to them about the importance of voting. Being undocumented and unable to vote himself, helping others to have their voices heard was the right thing for him to do.

Ricardo’s near and long-term goals:

My short time goal consists of finishing the Medical Laboratory Science (MLS) program at the University of Washington. Study hard, make new friends and learn a lot. My long-term goal is to become a researcher in the medical field. I also want do get more involved with volunteer work, and help others along the way.

Ricardo’s tips for future applicants:

Sometimes when you think your struggles are too great and your fears try to control you — just remember, I am exactly like you and I understand you. Acknowledge your fears but don’t let them paralyze you. Push forward anyways. Try. Make mistakes, learn, and try it again. Don’t give up. Be resilient. The most important thing is to maintain a level of optimism, hope, and curiosity about life and its journey. Have faith that you will get there.

Harry Furey-Soper, Pierce College

My name is Harry, and I enjoy hiking, lifting weights, and working on cars. My academic interests include physics, astronomy, engineering, mathematics, and computer science. I am currently working on a robotics development project called the Artemis Challenge, hosted by the Washington NASA Space Grant Consortium. This fall, I am transferring from Pierce College to the University of Washington to pursue a degree in aerospace engineering.

Growing up, I struggled with ADHD and ASD, and I performed poorly in high school. Pierce College gave me a second chance to turn things around. I was much more comfortable in the college environment, and I worked hard towards improving myself academically. I took on a rigorous STEM-focused workload, served as vice president of the Phi Theta Kappa Honors Society, received the 2021 Outstanding Student award for Engineering, and finally graduated with my Associates in Science. I feel that my time at Pierce has effectively prepared me for this transfer, and I am excited to get started at UW this fall.

I plan to major in Aeronautics and Astronautics and minor in Experimental Physics, while taking advantage of the many opportunities for undergraduate research programs offered by the College of Engineering. I also aim to complete a capstone project in spacecraft design during my senior year.

After completing my undergraduate program, I hope to remain at UW to obtain my MSAA, which will propel me towards my goal of becoming a NASA astronaut. While working for NASA, I wish to assist in researching advanced propulsion systems that will help mankind explore further into our universe than we have ever gone before. I also intend to help research and develop cleaner propulsion systems, which could allow us to move away from reliance on fossil fuels and work towards a healthier planet.

Harry’s near and long-term goals:

As for short-term goals, I hope to make connections with my classmates, professors, and professionals in the aerospace industry while completing my undergraduate program. I also wish to involve myself in research programs at the UW, such as the plasma science department. My long-term goals include remaining at the UW to pursue a graduate degree in the sciences of aeronautics and astronautics, which will allow me to achieve my dream of becoming a NASA astronaut.

Harry’s tips for future applicants:

Start your essays early, read the prompts thoroughly and carefully. Your essays are used to evaluate your candidacy, so it is important to put a decent amount of time and effort into writing them. If your community college has a writing center, don’t be afraid to ask them for help with proofreading and syntax.

Susan Muthoni, Highline College

My name is Susan Muthoni and I am a first generation student studying a Bachelors of Science in Nursing. I look forward to working towards getting a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) and partaking in research, and innovations from a global health lens so that I can increase the accessibility of healthcare services to third world countries and remote areas.

Growing up in a small town in Kenya, I witnessed firsthand how access to healthcare services is hindered by factors such as lack of awareness, finances, proximity to healthcare clinics and shortage of workers. At the age of 19, I immigrated from Kenya without any immediate family. Thus, I did not have a safety net for when things went wrong and lived paycheck to paycheck. I had to overcome mastering a whole new system, finding a place to live, eating and working all by myself.

Once I stabilized, I enrolled at highline College to study an associates in Pre-Nursing. However, during the pandemic, I found myself couch surfing and facing food insecurity as I took my core science classes. However, I was able to graduate with honors. While at Highline College, I was part of the TRIO program, engaged in research through the Honors program and was a member of Phi Theta Kappa. In my community I volunteered with different organizations such as Kingdom Mysteries International and Seattle Gospel Mission in supporting the homeless community.

“Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family.” – Kofi Annan

Susan’s near and long-term goals:

Ultimately, I hope to pursue higher education and acquire a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). I hope to use the opportunity to engage in research and equip myself so I can serve my immediate community in Seattle to bridge access to healthcare services to minority communities. My long term goal would be to help my home country and other third world countries in gaining more access to healthcare services.

Susan’s tips for future applicants:

Do not be afraid to tell your story. Be willing to be vulnerable and talk about your life experiences and how they have shaped you. Choose a topic that matters to you when it comes to essay writing. Practice your interview, be prompt and listen to the questions carefully.

Amanda René Capella, North Seattle College

“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him…We need not wait to see what others do.” – Mahatma Ghandi

Driven by the belief that our actions contribute to the net outcome of our societal experience, René is an individual dedicated to offering her time, resources, and skills to building a community where every person feels equally safe, creative, and motivated to be their best selves.

Growing up on a 12-acre plot of old farm land, René spent her childhood exploring nature. The solace therein provided space for creativity and introspection which developed into a lifelong pleasure. At Miami University, René studied philosophy, exploring ethics and phenomena. Years later, this rich history and practice of critical thought contributed to Rene’s ultimate decision to step back from the workplace as a professional Software Engineering Lead and commit all energy to scholarship and community.

René currently hopes to study Computer Science and Psychology at the University of Washington to deepen her awareness of possibilities and interactions between technology and the human mind. She attends North Seattle College where she is the Computer Science Club president and Google Developer Student Club Lead for the North Seattle College Chapter. She also actively mentors for all peers in the technology industry. René’s goal is to further the dialogue concerning ethics in technology. She also focuses her energy on creating community with peers to experience how anyone can come together and create positive change.

Outside of school, René is a meditation teacher. She also spends every spare moment with her active and curious children and family who share her passion for improving the lives of their community though service and intention.

René’s near and long-term goals:

My short-term goals are focused on the development of the Computer Science Club’s robustness and role as a rich experience for students and demonstration of community service. Currently awarded the Google Developer Student Club Lead position, I’ve been offered the resources necessary to expand my efforts.

For long-term, my goal is to continue scholarship and community building at the University of Washington with the extra long term goal of dedicating my knowledge and skills to the betterment of my community at home and at large.

René’s tips for future applicants:

Introspection and brainstorming are key to fully answering essay questions. Always searching deeply for your motivations and aspirations is helpful. Also, connecting your motivations to the community (if that pertains to you) is so helpful in conceptualizing and communicating your personal vision to others and how investment in YOU is investment in our community. Your future is everyone’s future. Dream big, dream ethically, and put the effort in :).

Mya Leonhard, Highline College

At the age of 18, Mya has already jumped through many hurdles in life. Her mother had a near-death experience in 2018 with sudden massive hemoptysis lung bleeding, only later to get diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. Mya has emotionally and mentally carried those around her while also battling her own mental health struggles. Working two jobs, she helps her family financially especially since her father was laid off in the pandemic last year. Yet, her resilience remains strong.

As a stellar student at Highline College, her next goal is to transfer and graduate with a B.A. in Psychology from UW. She is a member of Phi Theta Kappa and works at Highline’s Inter-Cultural Center, showing her emphasis on both studies and getting involved with her community. Her leadership skills as president of the Just a SEC: Social Equity Club led to recruitment by Communities for Our Colleges Coalition. This non-profit organization focuses on racial and economic equity through pushing for better state funding in community and technical colleges (CTCs) where many low-income and/or students of color go to for higher education. She successfully worked alongside legislators to pass a law that provides $33 million for CTCs, which includes allotment to grow mental health counseling services at each college.

Through her life experiences witnessing mental health struggles around her and working in communities to alleviate mental health stigmas and provide resources, she is driven to pursue a medical career in psychiatry after receiving her bachelors. She is passionate in her ultimate goal to become a well-rounded physician that leads with empathy and compassion. She has seen how human connections save lives and keep people going. She has many dreams, but never stops dreaming. She has put those dreams into action and will continue to do so.

Mya’s near and long-term goals:

My main near-term goal includes spending more time with my family because without them, I wouldn’t have had the support to get to where I am today. With my mother and father’s support, I always had supportive people around me that would encourage me to try my hardest in my academic and professional goals. That has translated into my motivations to transfer to the University of Washington for my B.A. in Psychology, continue my education for a medical degree, and leading me to pursue a career in psychiatry.

Mya’s tips for future applicants:

Before sending a request to a letter of recommendation writer, it would be good to prepare a resume, curriculum vitae, or a “brag sheet” for the writer to use as a reference. That way, they will be able to write good and applicable points about you that are on paper, along with their own personal input as well. Additionally, it would be best if a request is sent out around a month in advance to allow for time as many letter writers are quite busy with other tasks. For the personal statement essays, the more time you have, the better! I remember starting the application around a month before the due date and got a nice draft 2 weeks in before the deadline. The last 2 weeks were saved for meeting with my advisors and adding my own edits to make sure that the essay includes all the crucial parts I wanted to add in. The last, but definitely not least, tip of all is to reflect on your story and your life. The Martin Board wants to know all about you, so showing your authentic self is most likely going to be your biggest support in this scholarship application.

Mirian Mencias, Highline College

Mirian Mencias is a first-generation student. She is currently a Passport Peer Mentor with TRIO and a member of the conduct committee at Highline College. She is from Honduras la Ceiba, a multiracial student raised in Miami, Florida. Mirian is the mother of five beautiful girls. One of her desires is to demonstrate to her daughters that it is possible to prevail in life no matter the circumstances. She has encountered many challenges, including a car accident that changed her life forever. Mirian had no choice but to reinvent herself and return to school. Her intended major is in Political Science.

Mirian believes knowledge is power, so the only way to fight is by knowing the rules of the game in society. Taking the time to educate herself is the best investment she has made for herself and anyone can make for themselves. She believes that she will continue to use that energy to help propel her forward because those challenges made her a stronger person.

Mirian aspires to advocate for her community and help in whichever way possible by becoming their voice. She has declared herself a fighter and an advocate for her community. Mirian spends a lot of time reading, trying to learn, and when she is not reading or researching for fun, she loves to spend time with her five beautiful girls. She enjoys cooking, gardening, and teaching her girls how to study. Her plan is to one day help her community change for the better, and perhaps even the world, by continuing to support and help those who feel they do not have a voice. Mirian hopes to one day have the privilege of working with our government to continue to make our community a better place.

Mirian’s near and long-term goals:

I would like to be able to achieve an internship with our local government. Hopefully one day in the future I will work with government to make our community a better place for our children.

Mirian’s tips for future applicants:

You are worth it! So stop questioning yourself, and go for it. Take your time, don’t rush; make sure you give yourself plenty of time to write and review your essay. Read it to yourself out loud, and pour your heart out. Try to convey it in the writing. I know it will be challenging at first, but once you start it will flow and becomes more natural. Write your essay about your own experiences, achievement and challenges. Be authentic, but most importantly, you have to believe in yourself. You belong here. Remember this is beginning, so start by applying. Good Luck!!


Clarissa Perez, Seattle Central College

When Clarissa was younger, domestic violence, poverty, and drug addiction plagued her family. Despite this, she always made the top of her class. She found refuge in studying and doing good in school. However, her ambition came crashing down when depression and suicidal thoughts entered her life. She went from being a star student to barely graduating the eighth grade.

When Clarissa transitioned to Chief Sealth High School, it was a fresh start where she could reclaim the power she felt that she had lost. She was a full International Baccalaureate student and a member of various organizations related to youth empowerment and environmental justice. She also found a love for studying abroad when she got to study in Brazil, Germany, South Africa, and Guatemala- all on scholarship! Her high school experience didn’t come without challenges, though. During her sophomore year, Clarissa’s brother was murdered. In the middle of her junior year, she almost passed away in a suicide attempt. Finally, during her senior year, her mother died of a drug overdose.

Clarissa longed so badly to be a leader in her community that would get into college and have nothing stop her, but the pain was too much. Clarissa’s grades fell and she almost, again, barely graduated her senior year. Although she got admitted to UW Seattle her senior year, she knew that she needed to take a gap year to heal her pain. She took an internship at the Inspiring Children Foundation in Las Vegas, NV.

Clarissa’s internship consisted of helping struggling youth learn mindfulness and meditation tools to help them persevere through their adversity. Moreover, Clarissa has spoken at festivals, community gatherings, and formal settings around the country to give talks on mental health and her personal story. During her gap year, she also applied to seventeen colleges and got rejected from all of them! She decided not to give up and now prides herself in attending Seattle Central College.

For so long Clarissa felt that her circumstances would be the end of her. Now, she aspires to become the first person in her family to graduate from college. She has the dream of going to medical school and becoming an emergency medicine doctor. Clarissa’s story is one that shows that no matter what your past entails, you can always rise above it.

Clarissa’s near and long-term goals:

I hope to be a healthy and happy college student! My long-term goal is to get into medical school and eventually become an emergency medicine doctor.

Clarissa’s tips for future applicants:

Remember to pour your heart out into your essays. It is the time where you are able to share you who are, your passions, and your aspirations. Be honest and open, to the extent in which you are comfortable, with the struggles and barriers you’ve endured in your pursuit of higher education. This is your chance to have your story heard- good luck!

Mussie Tsegay, South Seattle College

Mussie is an immigrant who is chasing the dream of being successful in a country of freedom. He came to the United States from an African country, Eritrea, in February 2019. Growing up in Eritrea was one of the many challenging experiences in his lifetime, as people are stripped of their basic human rights. As a result, Mussie’s life depended on education; the more he learned, the more freedom he could acquire.

To find a change, at age 17, Mussie started his journey to America. He had to cross the Eritrean border illegally on foot. He chose to forget everything he achieved in his education and move to a place he only knew through the media. In addition, Mussie had to take responsibility for his two siblings and protect them from the wild animals and the Eritrean soldiers who secured the border. After three scary days and nights and with the help of some smugglers, he and his siblings were able to cross the border alive. After eight months, he was able to reunite with my parents in the USA.

As an active TRIO member at South Seattle College, Mussie plans to earn his Associate of Science Degree and transfer to UW to earn his Bachelor’s Degree in Electrical Engineering. Growing up in a less developed country taught him that education is essential to solve our world’s problems. Mussie hopes to use his education to improve electric power access and make the world a safe place to live.

Remembering his friends in Eritrea who didn’t have the opportunity to use their talents reinforces Mussie’s strength to finish school. He now takes another step toward becoming the first one from his family to go college and change his future. He plans to face the obstacles and challenge them while enjoying the journey to success that will change life for himself and his family.

Mussie’s near and long-term goals:

Academically, my near-term goal is to get my Associate of Science Degree in South Seattle college and transfer to UW. Additionally, I plan to practice and further my art skills as a hobby. My future goal is to obtain my engineering degree, perhaps including a master’s, as needed. On the way, I want to learn more about this country and further my plan on using my education to be successful and help people in need.

Mussie’s tips for future applicants:

I would advise future students to use the principle of “work smarter, not harder.” Appling to scholarships is much easier than working hard to get the money. Besides, don’t forget the patience and the experience you develop by applying will prepare you for your future. So appreciate all the hardships you overcome and enjoy your success, As success is how far you got from where you started.