We’re proud to announce the winners of our MPOWER Arts Scholarship!
For these scholarships, we opened up the competition beyond the 350+ schools we support, allowing any international student to apply who is enrolled in a full-time arts degree program at an institution of higher education in the United States and Canada, to include institutions specifically dedicated to the arts (e.g., Juilliard, Rhode Island Institute of Design, Savannah College of Art and Design, etc.).
We love that the winners not only demonstrated their artistic merit, but also demonstrated the power of art to bridge cultural divides and bring fresh perspectives and interpretations to existing works of art or even social problems. Our winners include a trailblazing Pakistani woman singing a selection from a classic American musical, a Tunisian shepherd-turned-filmmaker, and an Indian photojournalist documenting Washington D.C.’s homeless community.
Read on for more about our fascinating winners—or, better yet, watch their embedded videos!
Grand prize winner: Sara Haider, Pakistani Singer and Actress, The Juilliard School
Sara Haider is a trailblazer on many fronts. After earning a degree in economics from a prominent women’s college in Pakistan, she defied her family’s expectations by embarking on a music career, first performing in the musical Grease and then gaining fame on the popular Pakistani music show Coke Studio. She has performed around the world as a singer, and she made her film debut in the short film Khaemae Mein Matt Jhankain, which was released at the Zeal for Unity film festival in India and Pakistan.
But her dream was to come to New York to further her career. She soon made history as the first Pakistani student at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, a performing arts conservatory that is the alma mater of many prominent actors, including Jessica Chastain, Robert Redford, Danny DeVito, and Anne Hathaway. She made history again when she was accepted as the first Pakistani student at Juilliard!
We love her rendition of “Bye, Bye Birdie,” which showcases both her singing and her acting chops!
2nd place winner: Najmeddine Harrabi, Tunisian Shepherd-Turned-Filmmaker, University of Southern California
Najmeddine (“Naj”) Harrabi spent his childhood as a sheep and goat herder in the Tunisian countryside, where he developed his fascination with film while watching a black and white TV that ran on a car battery. Later, after the revolutions of the “Arab Spring,” Naj became involved in media literacy and activism, founding WeYouth-Tunisia, a nonprofit that motivates young people to get involved.
After attending the African Leadership Academy, Naj attended the University of Notre Dame, where he directed various theater and film projects, took summer courses at improvisational comedy powerhouse Second City in Chicago, and interned as a scriptwriter for Conan in Los Angeles.
Currently, he is pursuing a Master of Fine Arts in film and television production at the University of Southern California (USC).
Watch this video about Naj’s journey from Tunisia to USC!
3rd place winner: Venkat Sai Akash Pamarthy, Indian Photojournalist Bridging Cultural Divides, The George Washington University
Venkat Sai Akash Pamarthy is pursuing a Master of New Media Photojournalism at the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design at The George Washington University. Bridging cultural divides, his work documents the color, joy, and tragedy of everyday life, whether in India or the U.S. Venkat seeks to document life as it is, as well as to prompt his viewers to question the existing social order to prompt social change.
His videography has included poignant interviews with the parents of suicide victims, as well as advocates for animal shelter adoptions. His thesis project focuses on the homeless and the housing crisis in Washington, D.C.
Check out this video overview of his amazing work!
If you like these videos, comment below and show your support!