Seniors Ne'Miya McKnight and Melat Mesfin were two of 1,464 college-bound seniors who were awarded a four-year match scholarship through the QuestBridge program; over 18,500 students applied for match scholarships nationwide. Ne'Miya will attend Tufts University and Melat will matriculate at Princeton University.
Both seniors were surprised to find they were chosen for the scholarship. "I'm proud of myself," said Ne'Miya, noting she will be the first in her family to attend college. "I've been praying about this, [asking God to] just make sure I'm matched with the school that will set me on the right path."
Melat constantly refreshed the QuestBridge portal on the day results would be announced. When she saw another finalist announced their match on social media, she opened the portal again, only to close it, too nervous to see the results. Finally, she saw it: Congratulations, you've been matched! "I was shocked I was matched, and then to hear it was to my first choice school," she recalls. "My mom was screaming; my dad came in; and then we all hugged."
Ne'Miya plans to major in psychology and political science. "The dream is to hopefully own my own law firm dedicated to helping mentally ill patients within the criminal justice system."
Similarly, Melat also intends to go into law. Her passion was ignited after reading Bryan Stevenson's "Just Mercy" before junior year AP English. "That really inspired me," she said. "His work with the criminal justice system made me take a closer look at it."
"I've been working hard since I was a kid," said Melat. "I've always gone to challenging schools ... Seeing that if you work hard, you're able to achieve your goals. The academic work, the extracurricular involvement - it all paid off. I got into a school where I can continue my passions. The fact that it's a full-ride takes all the financial worries off me so I can just focus on my education."
Ne'Miya and Melat both note they'll be taking the time-management skills learned at Visitation with them to college. "You have to find a balance, and Visitation has prepared me for that. In college there are so many options [for being involved]. It's a whole new world," said Melat. "You have to know how much you can manage and how to manage it efficiently."
Ne'Miya shared that while at Visitation, she has learned how to be more open to new friendships and new and different perspectives. "Going to Visi was a culture shock for me," she said, having previously attended majority-black schools. "It widened my horizons and I want to continue to keep that mindset at Tufts."
Melat is looking for community and sisterhood at Princeton, like she found here, and hopes the smaller school will provide those opportunities. She credits math teacher Kati Hylden Kreuger '99 with instilling her with the skills she'll need to be successful in college. "Even though I won't be a STEM major, I think taking honors pre-cal and having Mrs. Kreuger for two years - those classes and her teaching methods - really instilled in me the ability to think critically and analyze situations ... In law, you have to think critically and on your feet all the time," she said.
Ne'Miya's relationships with Director of Personal Counseling Susie Manion, Director of Student Activities Raynetta Jackson-Clay, English teacher Peggy Judge Hamilton '85, and food services team member Patricia Jones have inspired her to embrace the Salesian maxim of ,"Be who you are and be that well." "[They] taught me to continue to be myself no matter what and not be afraid of that," she said.
Melat thanked all her teachers and classmates for building her up to apply for the QuestBridge program, and challenging her academically and in her extracurriculars.
Of heading of to college next year, Ne'Miya said, "It's going to be different, but I'm ready. I got it."