MPOWER’s signature scholarship program, the MPOWER Global Citizen Scholarship, awards up to $5,000 to international students at schools we support. For the cycle ending April 15, 2019, MPOWER staff conducted a blind review of a record-breaking 1,121 eligible applications from every corner of the globe, and from degree programs as diverse as film, linguistics, engineering, business, and law. Our scholarship committee was incredibly impressed by the applicants’ breadth and diversity of experiences—and by their incredible determination and potential to solve some of the world’s most pressing challenges, many of which they’ve experienced firsthand in their home country.
After a lengthy debate, our scholarship committee finally selected four students to win a $5,000 scholarship each. These winners hail from Nigeria, Kenya, and Pakistan and include a DACA student and advocate, a researcher combatting antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and engineering students aspiring to improve water quality and alternative energy production in their home countries. We also have our first winner at a Canadian university.
Read on for profiles of our impressive winners!
Chidozie D. Ojobor, Nigerian Antibiotic Resistance Researcher at the University of Toronto
Like so many of our winners, Chidozie’s personal experiences provided the inspiration for his career choice. “One of the greatest breakthroughs of medicine was the discovery of antibiotics,” he wrote in his essay. “However, over the years, there has been an uprising of antibiotic-resistant bacteria which have posed a great threat to human existence. Antibiotic-resistant bacteria, if left unchecked, would cause 10 million deaths yearly by 2050 worldwide, according to a CDC report. Coming from Nigeria, I have firsthand experience with persons infected with bacteria which are unresponsive to drugs.”
Now a Ph.D. student in Molecular Genetics at the University of Toronto, Chidozie’s contributions to the field greatly impressed our judges. “In the last three years of my Ph.D. in Canada,” he wrote in his essay, “I have identified novel bacteria-killing entities, called tailocins, which I have successfully used to kill antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the laboratory. Interestingly, in any case that the bacteria then develop resistance, I can genetically engineer the tailocins to overpower the resistant superbugs. My work has the potential to help the world in overcoming diseases caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria.”
“’I feel immensely honored to be a winner of the prestigious MPower Global Citizenship Scholarship,” Chidozie said. “For me, this recognition revitalizes my drive toward my education, and because this scholarship is monetarily applied to funding my schooling, it is truly freeing and ‘empowering.’”
Zainab Ilumoka, DACA Student Turned Advocate
Originally from Nigeria, Zainab is the first DACA recipient to win MPOWER’s Global Citizen Scholarship. MPOWER’s scholarship committee was particularly impressed by her track record and potential as an advocate for the disadvantaged, and by the poignancy of her essay.
“In my junior year of college,” she wrote, “one lawyer changed my world. Former President Barack Obama created a new policy called DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), and my life changed overnight. When I received my DACA paperwork, I felt free. I felt as though someone finally heard me screaming and came to my rescue. I was so grateful for DACA that I became motivated to advocate for others who felt voiceless. I pursued opportunities that allowed me to champion for marginalized people. I became a claims advocate for our veterans, appealing their disability benefits. I instructed middle school students on democracy, government, and lobbying their state representative. I studied Gender and Leadership to learn how women could surpass societal barriers. I pursued opportunities that would allow me to pay forward what DACA did for me.”
Zainab will use her scholarship to attend law school and gain the skills necessary to “change the world of people who feel forgotten by society, and to defend others silenced by the severity of their circumstances.” She is currently deciding between the law schools of three institutions of higher education supported by MPOWER: Northeastern University, The George Washington University, and Boston College.
“I am ecstatic to be selected for the Global Citizen Scholarship and would like to thank MPOWER Financing!” Zainab said. “I am tremendously grateful for MPOWER’s support of students pursuing the American dream. Acquiring funding has been a struggle, but this scholarship has helped in alleviating some of the financial stress I am under.”
Vaqar Syed, UCLA Engineering Student Aspiring to Solve Pakistan’s Clean Water Crisis
Originally from Pakistan, Vaqar hopes to make an impact by addressing the lack of clean water in his home country. As Vaqar noted in his essay, “The use of unclean water spreads fatal diseases, hinders productivity, and prevents financial growth among millions of Pakistanis.”
The scholarship committee was particularly impressed by the clarity of Vaqar’s goals, as well as the clear nexus with his program of study. “My primary goal is to apply the knowledge gained from my chemical engineering education,” he wrote, “in designing efficient water purification systems that are implementable for large-scale use. Such systems utilize polymer-based membranes; hence, my Master’s research will build on my current study of the mechanical and absorption properties of polymers and their optimization for uses in water treatment. This will enable me to create robust, next-generation membranes that target the heavy metals, pesticides, and solid waste found in Pakistan’s water sources. Eventually, I also hope to work with wastewater treatment plants throughout Pakistan to devise better recycle streams and more durable pipe systems to minimize the massive industrial contribution to water pollution.”
Vaqar graduated from UCLA with a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering in 2018, and he has been working as a chemical engineering research assistant at UCLA since then.
“The MPower Global Citizenship Scholarship will help me realize my goal of studying Chemical Engineering at the Master’s level,” Vaqar said, “so that I can apply the knowledge and skills I gain to develop robust, next-generation water purification technologies to mitigate the widespread problem of unsanitary drinking water.”
Tabitha Wacuka Kiiru, Iowa State Engineering Student and Aspiring Kenyan Wind Farmer
Growing up in Kenya, Tabitha was frustrated by the “poor methods of energy production, for instance, using firewood for cooking,” as well as the “lack of electricity both in rural and urban areas,” which she attributes to a lack of technical knowledge.
She was thrilled when she received her acceptance letter from Iowa State University. “I knew I would acquire skills that would enable me learn more about renewable energy production,” she wrote. “My long-term goal is to set up a wind-generated power plant at my rural village in Kenya. Five years from now, I see myself running my own wind energy firm and playing a key role in providing the community with a clean and sustainable source of energy that is not only beneficial to the economy but also to the environment.”
We’d like to extend a hearty congratulations to all of our winners, and we encourage everyone to spread the word about the next round of Global Citizen Scholarships, which closes July 15th!