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Image ACF scholarship recipients share stories, hope, and inspiration

Arlington Community Foundation has a well-established Annual Scholarship Program that in 2021 awarded over $600,000 in college scholarships to 103 new students, with an additional 85 scholarships being renewed for returning college students. Generous individuals, families, companies, and organizations fund the scholarships, which have their own unique eligibility criteria. In the past decade, ACF has awarded more than $5 million to Arlington students attending college.

Even more significant than the awards themselves are the incredible students who have received them. As ACF enters its 30th year, we wanted to take a moment to talk to some of these past recipients to see where they are, what the scholarship means to them, and what words they would share with this year’s scholarship recipients.

Enji Tuvshinzaya studied at James Madison University and currently works as a product analyst while being a mother to a toddler.

Javier Ernesto Perez studied at Swarthmore College and is currently completing his Ph.D. in Sociology at the University of Cape Town.

Anna Tramposch studied at Emory University, works for FEMA in an administrative role, and plans to attend graduate school for public health.

Lilian Perez studied at Wellesley College, obtained a Master’s of Public Health degree from Emory University, and a Ph.D. in Global Health from the University of California, San Diego/San Diego State University Joint Doctoral Program. She currently works as a Policy Researcher at a nonprofit research institution and focuses her work on promoting health equity in disadvantaged communities.

How did the ACF scholarship help you achieve the goals you made as a high school student?

Enji: “I was valedictorian in high school with high ambitions, but I could not afford a 4 year college at the time, and the scholarship allowed me to attend a 4 year college and focus on my academics.”

Javier: “Being a first-generation college student can be a difficult and isolating experience. Getting this scholarship helped with some of the financial needs I experienced at college (e.g. it helped me afford a laptop), but more profoundly, it gave me a confidence boost and a sense of having a support system when I most needed it.”

Anna: “The scholarship helped me reach two goals I made as a high school student–to find my passions and to see more of the world through study abroad or other means. This scholarship relieved financial stress and allowed me to focus on my studies. I majored in Public Health and African Studies and was able to study abroad twice in my Emory career, which further set me up for more international experiences such as the Peace Corps.”

“More profoundly, it gave me a confidence boost and a sense of having a support system when I most needed it.”

Lilian: “In high school, I knew I wanted to attend college, but the financial barriers made it seem like a far-away dream. My sister had started her first year in college while I was still a senior, so I was afraid my parents wouldn’t be able to financially support the both of us at the same time. I decided to apply to as many scholarship opportunities I could find to make my dream a reality. As first-generation college students, both my sister and I had to navigate the college process on our own, including the financial piece. Counselors sent me applications, but at the end of the day I had to complete them as best I could, which at the time felt like a black box. I didn’t know what donors were looking for, but I knew I had to be honest and open in sharing my story and to convince others that I had potential to succeed. All the hard work paid off as I received an ACF scholarship and a few others that together, along with federal aid, paid for my entire 4 years of college. I felt very blessed to have been selected and to ultimately pursue my dream of going to one of the most prestigious colleges in the country.”

What did receiving the scholarship mean to you?

Enji: “When I received the Arlington Community Foundation scholarship, I cried. It meant an open door and new opportunities. It was special because I felt supported by my community. When I think of the Arlington Community Foundation scholarship program, I think of hope and feel relieved and supported. My sister currently attends Arlington Public Schools and one of the reasons I urge my parents to stay in Arlington instead of moving is the Arlington Community Foundation scholarship program. I love how you fill out one scholarship application, and you get matched. I love how the community invests in the education of the young, and if you love learning, you are supported.”

Javier: “I went to college out of state, so Arlington Community Foundation’s support was like hearing my hometown cheer me on from such a distance. It was a reminder that Arlington remained an anchor to me, even if I left to pursue new horizons.”

When I received the Arlington Community Foundation scholarship, I cried. It meant an open door and new opportunities. It was special because I felt supported by my community.”

Anna: “Receiving this scholarship meant a lot to me because it felt like my hometown was supporting me in my college career. I was pretty involved in Arlington as a teenager through Teen Network Board and the Arlington Partnership for Children Youth and Families, so it felt like my service was being recognized and appreciated, and that my hard work was paying off. It definitely grew my confidence to be selected for the scholarship. When I think of Arlington Community Foundation, I think of equity and opportunity. ACF awards so many scholarships every year to hard working teens who are trying to find their niche in life, school, and careers. I think of a support system that genuinely wants you to succeed.”

Lilian: “What I appreciated about the ACF scholarship application was that it asked about my story, which I hadn’t really shared with anyone before, not even close friends. My family and I immigrated to Arlington during a challenging and violent era in our home country, and that was not something we liked to tell others as it was still hard to process even years after we left. I felt I could share my story in this application, not to gain sympathy, but to demonstrate that I wanted to honor all the sacrifices my family made to come to this country and survive each day, by fulfilling a dream (higher education) that might not have been possible in my home country. Given I arrived in the US as a toddler, Arlington was the only home I knew (or remember), so being supported by one of our own neighbors through this scholarship meant a lot to me. It made me realize that we were truly part of a community that cared. I firmly believe that these scholarships are like planting a seed and over time, we see the students bloom into strong and independent citizens of our country. I’m proud to have been selected as one of the scholarship recipients back in 2003 but even more proud to give back to the program by serving as a [scholarship application] reviewer.”

If you were able to meet the scholarship funder, what was that experience like?

Javier: “We have become lifelong friends. We have stayed in touch throughout the years. They have seen me through undergrad and into my graduate studies and have remained a support system for me. I just want to say that I love them and thank them for being so genuine and caring. Their lifestyle, way of being, and values continue to be a source of great inspiration for me. I have not known many people as generous and as loving as them. It always helps to be reminded that such people exist.”

“I have not known many people as generous and as loving as them. It always helps to be reminded that such people exist.”

Lilian: “This was the only scholarship for which I had the opportunity to meet the funder in person, and it made a real difference in my life. With my scholarship funders, their impact went beyond helping me pay my college tuition. They were always there when I needed someone to talk to, they helped me navigate systems that I was unfamiliar with (e.g., applying for jobs), and they supported my goals even when no one else understood them. We even checked in on one another during the pandemic, as I know the social isolation was hard for many of us. Overall, there are no words to express how grateful I am for their love and support and for really being there for me and my family. Their mentorship has meant the world to me, and it has inspired me to mentor other youth as well, especially students who may be the first in their families navigating new experiences (e.g., college) on their own.”

What would you like to say to the recipients of this year’s scholarships?

Enji: “Don’t give up when one door is locked or closes. Another one will open. Reach out to people, ask for help, ask questions, and try your best. It will pay off.”

Javier: “You are deserving and worthy – don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. And what you’re deserving of is the opportunity to find your own happiness through your own unique path. Take this scholarship as an opportunity to do the unimaginable. And be gentle to yourself – getting this or any other scholarship does not mean that you have to push yourself even harder just to feel worthy; on the contrary, you worked hard enough already to merit this award, and now is the time to go beyond anyone’s expectations. Explore your passions, take a college course you might not ever get the chance to in the future, and above all, treat your academic and professional journey as an act of self-love. Study what brings you deep satisfaction and feeds an unquenchable curiosity, be adventurous, and find out what kind of person you truly wish to be.”

“Above all, treat your academic and professional journey as an act of self-love.”

Anna: “I would tell this year’s scholarship recipients to chase every opportunity they can! Try new things, keep saying “yes,” and don’t feel bad saying “I didn’t know that, tell me more.” Always make time for the things that make you happy. Try your best, but at the end of the day, you are SO much more than the piece of paper that is your transcript. Also, if you feel like you are struggling, don’t be scared to ask for help. There are so many people who want to help and see you thrive! Know that growth is uncomfortable, so if you feel challenged then it only means you are doing it right. Don’t let any fear or doubt stop you from doing big things with your life. Find your support system and be a good support for others. You got this.”

Lilian: “I highly encourage this year’s scholarship recipients to get to know their scholarship donors and keep them updated on how they’re doing in school, not just the achievements, but also any struggles they’re facing. The donors care and want to support their students as best they can. Understanding how to seek and benefit from mentorship is something that we all need across all stages of our lives. Even as a professional, I continue to find mentors who help me navigate and progress in my career. So, developing good mentor relationships now is key! But I also encourage the recipients to learn to become mentors themselves and inspire the next generation of students.”

Each scholarship award is made possible by the generosity of numerous individuals, families, businesses, and organizations who have established named scholarship funds or provided gifts to our Community Scholarship Fund.

For information on how you can start a new scholarship fund or contribute to an existing scholarship fund to help deserving Arlington students attend college, please call 703-243-4785 or email

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