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Three NOVA students win prestigious Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Scholarship Award

Armian Hanelli and Frank Estevao Maia with President Templin

Award recipients Armian Hanelli and Frank Estevao Maia with President Templin.

Amin Syed with Robyn Russo, faculty advisor

Award recipient Amin Syed with Robyn Russo, faculty advisor.

Three Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) students have been awarded a Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship. Armian Hanelli, Frank Estevao Maia and Amin Syed were among the 85 students nationally to receive the prestigious award. The scholarship provides up to $30,000 a year toward tuition, living expenses and required fees for the final two-to-three years needed to achieve a bachelor’s degree.

These awards are a testament to the hard work and dedication of our student body here at NOVA,” said NOVA President Dr. Robert G. Templin Jr. “Congratulations to Armian, Frank and Amin for this great recognition and for continuing a tradition that makes the entire college proud.” 

Hanelli, Maia and Syed join a growing number of past scholarship recipients from NOVA. In the last eight years, NOVA has had a total of 11 Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship recipients.

“This scholarship changes everything.”
For Armian Hanelli, 20, of Crystal City, receiving the scholarship now means he can focus solely on his studies once he begins classes this fall at Virginia Tech. In May, Hanelli will graduate from NOVA summa cum laude with an associate degree of science in electrical engineering. 

He plans to continue studying electrical engineering at Virginia Tech. “This scholarship changes everything,” he said.

Hanelli, who is originally from Albania, first came to the U.S. as an exchange student in 2010. He stayed about nine months before returning to Albania. In 2011, his family moved to the U.S. when his father was appointed to work at the Embassy of Albania in Washington, D.C.

Although he got accepted at several four-year colleges during his senior year of high school, he took his older sister’s advice and began his college studies at NOVA. His sister is a NOVA graduate. He said he’s so glad he made the decision because he has enjoyed his “small classes” and interacting with “amazing professors.”

He said coming to NOVA allowed him to get involved in various activities such as tutoring students, conducting research as part of the undergraduate physics research team and becoming a member of Phi Theta Kappa.

Creating an easier access to education
Frank Estevao Maia, 28, lives in Manassas with his wife. He came to NOVA two years ago. He will graduate summa cum laude with an associate of science degree in business administration from the Manassas Campus. He is a member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society.

Maia was raised in South Africa but is of Portuguese descent. He wants to transfer to Georgetown University. However, he has not heard from the university yet. He also applied to Yale University, Columbia University and the University of Pennsylvania.

He plans to study finance and design programs that can alleviate the socioeconomic hardships found in communities. “Financial hardship hinders education,” he said. “I want to create an easier access to education.”

Tears ran down his face when he learned that he had been selected as a Jack Kent Cooke Scholar. He said his life had been hard – his father passed away and left his mother alone to raise him and four siblings.

He said that earning his degree will prove to everyone who has helped him that it was worth their effort. Aside from his studies, Maia has had several positions at the College, including the evening administrator at the Manassas Campus.

The importance of extracurricular activities
Amin Syed, 20, lives in Sterling with his family. He will graduate summa cum laude with an associate degree in science. After NOVA, he plans on pursuing a bachelor’s degree in biology and go to medical school. He is currently studying to take the MCAT (Medical College Admission Test) this August.

Syed came to the United States from Pakistan with his family in 2006. He is a fraternal twin and also has two brothers and a sister. After his family settled in Sterling, Syed began to take classes in the English as a Second Language program in Loudoun County Public Schools. He graduated in the top two percent of his class.

Unsure of his path after high school, Syed enrolled at the Loudoun Campus as a way to figure out whether he wanted to pursue college. NOVA’s lower tuition costs made it easier for him to make that decision.

As a NOVA student, he was active in the Honors Club and tutoring. Syed himself took advantage of tutoring and the process allowed him to learn from others, while teaching others.

He said participating in extracurricular activities has helped him learn valuable time management skills and he would encourage other students to get involved with the NOVA community.

Media Contact: Jessica Baxter | 703.323.3288 | jbaxter@nvcc.edu

Northern Virginia Community College is the largest institution of higher education in the Commonwealth of Virginia and one of America's largest community colleges. NOVA enrolls more than 75,000 students at its six campuses in Alexandria, Annandale, Loudoun, Manassas, Springfield and Woodbridge, and through NOVA Online. For more information about NOVA and its programs or services, call 703-323-3000 or visit the College's Web site, www.nvcc.edu.