Sara Abbas was momentarily speechless.
Earlier this month, officials with the Scholarship Fund of Alexandria faked her out on a scheduled Zoom interview.
After she answered a few basic questions, they announced that she just won the first-ever $40,000 Titans In Tech Scholarship. The next thing she knew the call was joined by Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr., T.C Williams principal Peter Balas, SFA Director Beth Lovain and her mentor Brett Sirois, a 2007 Titan alum and creator of the scholarship.
It was a surprising moment, and that’s when Abbas stood up and walked away from the camera to tell her family the good news.
“I was so shocked,” Abbas told ALXnow. “They’d already made their decision.”
Hutchings received the scholarship when he attended T.C. in 1995.
“Sara, this scholarship helped pave the way for my success and I know it will do that for you,” Hutchings said. “As a woman and a person of color entering the computer science world and looking to help students of color who follow behind you, I can see that you are on the way to change the world, that you are going to make a difference.”
Balas said that the scholarship will be a game-changer for Abbas.
“This scholarship is going to be a game-changer for you and your family,” he said. “And I can see that you are going to be a game-changer, too.”
There has been a 25% increase in applications for Scholarship Fund of Alexandria awards, and $525,000 is being given out to 180 seniors this year at its 35th anniversary spring gala on April 24. The Scholarship Fund has awarded $16.5 million to nearly 5,000 Alexandria students over the last 35 years.
“As a TC Alum and Alexandria native, I wanted to find a way to give back to the community that helped me get to where I am today,” Sirois said. “This scholarship was created to help a student like Sara jumpstart their career in technology and I’m happy to play a small part in her future success. Sara has worked so hard to get so far already, I have no doubt that the sky is the limit for her.”
Abbas will study computer science at Virginia Tech this fall. She said she wants to help children learn coding.
“I’m really honored to have been awarded the Titans In Tech scholarship,” Abbas said. “It’s very meaningful, not only financially but emotionally as well because it strengthened my belief in myself. There’s no doubt that we’ll be able to accomplish my professional goals.”
In her scholarship essay, she wrote about the digital divide between the haves and have nots in society.
“I was writing how the link between technology and power, and how we need to care about making communities a more equitable place, and need to make computer science education available to everyone, since students of color are disadvantaged youth,” she said. “I’m really hoping to work in the middle schools in the surrounding Blacksburg area.”
Photo via Scholarship Fund of Alexandria