Learning that she had won a full-ride scholarship to The George Washington University overwhelmed Ballou Senior High School student Syamyia Beach, but she said tears didn’t start to well up until she saw her mother among the numerous supporters who gathered in the school cafeteria more than a week ago.
Long before she won an opportunity to study interior design, business management, and architecture at one of the nation’s most expensive universities, Syamyia maintained a 4.2 GPA, served as a student leader, and mentored other young people, all while maintaining a time-consuming job.
“This was the moment I was waiting for, but I didn’t know anything about it even though I had prepared for it,” Syamyia told reporters on the morning of March 19 shortly after receiving the Stephen Joel Trachtenberg Scholarship, a financial award that covers four years of tuition, room, board, books, and fees for recipients, all of whom graduated from District-based schools.
D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Lewis D. Ferebee, along with George Washington President Thomas LeBlanc and Dean of Admissions Costas Solomou, presented Syamyia with the scholarship during what had been announced as a senior assembly.
Moments into the meeting, Ferebee, who met Syamyia weeks earlier during a visit to Ballou, recognized the scholarship winner. Shortly after, Ballou’s marching band and an entourage that included a large George Washington mascot entered the room.
“There was a lot on my shoulders,” said a deeply reflective Syamyia. “It was a wonderful experience knowing I am a becoming more like [my mother], an independent woman. In the fall, I’m looking forward to the help from my professors and the support system GW provides.”
Since its 1989 inception, 184 students have enrolled at GW as Trachtenberg scholars, a group heralded as examples of high academic performance and community and extracurricular involvement. Previous Trachtenberg scholars have engaged rigorous coursework, started on-campus organizations and learned tricks of the trade at competitive internships.
Syamyia, a member of the student advisory committee for the D.C. Board of Education, counted among 10 D.C. students, including those from Banneker, Wilson and McKinley high schools, who received the Trachtenberg Scholarship last week.
Attending GW had been Syamyia’s goal since her visit to the Foggy Bottom campus in the fifth grade. That dream has now come to fruition for Syamyia and her mother, free of charge.
“I was so blessed to not have to worry about paying tuition and if [Syamyia] could succeed in her education,” said Toni Davis, Syamyia’s mother. “She’s been a straight-A student since elementary school. She works so hard, so it was exciting. It means the world to hear that she wants to be like me. She’s going off to be a woman and experience life on her own. It makes me feel like I did something right.”