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Genet Lakew, a Howard University and New York University, left college being debt free with the help of scholarships and grants. And now Lakew wants to give back to students in a major way.

The 27-year-old, who works at the The National Urban League, created The Mekonnen Family Scholarship. The endowment is designed to help immigrant high school students from the black diaspora pay for college. Like those who were born into an immigrant household, Lakew is no stranger to the limitations that come with trying to achieve a higher education.

“My working class Ethiopian immigrant mother emphasized education as a gateway to opportunity and success. But she did not have the economic and social access to help me apply to colleges, visit campuses, pay for application fees, tuition and housing,” Lakew wrote on her campaign page, Help Black Immigrants Pay For College. “The scholarship is named in honor of the humble, hardworking immigrant family I come from, who poured their hopes and dreams into me. I want the names and memories of the souls who are no longer on Earth to live on through this scholarship.”

“For example, growing up in the D.C. area one field that is dominated by black immigrants is the taxi business. A lot of taxi drivers are Ethiopians or Nigerians,” she continued. “So when you have conversations with these taxi drivers you learn that a lot of them have professional careers at home; some of them might be doctors, engineers or professors. There are a lot of educated middle class black immigrants, but there are also a lot of working class immigrants. I want to give them wiggle room to have the quality of life that they desire.”

Lakew plans on recruiting 5 candidates from her alma mater, Washington-Lee High School in Arlington, VA to be the first recipients of the grant.

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