UW Women's Center

2010 Winners

2010 Winners of the Stanley & Berthe Habib
Making Connections Endowed Scholarship

Perla Reyes-Herrera

Perla didn’t have it easy growing up. When Perla was two, her father suddenly died, leaving behind two small daughers and Perla’s mother as the sole care-taker. Perla recognizes the strength her mother embodied as a “woman {raising} two girls in a world of men”.

Shortly after the death of her father, Perla and her family immigrated to the United States in search of educational and professional opportunities. While Perla and her sister succeeded in finding educational opportunities, Perla admits that her family is still financially unstable, living from paycheck to paycheck. Last summer, Perla’s mother lost her job and Perla became the only source of income for her family over the course of four months. When asked how these challenges have affected her, Perla says “I’ve learned that not trying is an act of defeat.”

Today, Perla is the first person in her family to not only graduate from high school, but be heading to college in the fall. She has defied the systems and people that oppressed her culture, and knows exactly what it takes to turn adversity into determination.

Perla has been part of the Making Connections Program for the last four years. She sought out the program when she was a freshman in high school with the hope of finding the access to higher education that had been denied to her family for generations. She credits Making Connections with her exposure to the field of science through specialized workshops in collaboration with Bioquest, Mercer Slough, AIVA and the Making Connections summer program. Perla will be attending the University of Washington this fall with the intention of studying molecular biology and genetics.

We are proud to award Perla with the Stanley and Berthe Habib Endowed Scholarship to help facilitate the financial transition into college. Perla is exemplary of the students that the Berthe Habib Scholasrhip aims to support-young women with endless potential who have faced adversity and conquored it.

Selam Abraham

Selam Abraham did not dream about going to college as a child. Both her parents forfeited their own education in 10th grade in favor of supporting their family. Still, her father often spoke of the importance of education. On one occasion, Selam attempted to stay from school by donning an apron and offering to stay home and help her father in the restaurant. Her father refused with the explanation that “education is the key to life.”

Selam and her family lived in Saudi Arabia for a few years but faced discrimination as non-muslims in a heavily religious community, which barred her and her siblings from receiving higher education. This encouraged her family’s migration to the United States. Selam’s father sent his wife and children and remained behind to finance the trip. His intention was to join them soon after. Unfortunately, shortly after their arrival in the US, Selam’s family received word that her father had contracted an unknown disease and died.

Faced with the unimaginable tragedy of losing a parent, Selam was devestated. She said that “losing [her] father was the most painful thing [she] ever went through. It hurt both mentally and physically.” As she attempted to recover from the shock of her father’s death, Selam began to fall ill herself. The severity of her condition became evident and in 2003 Selam was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease.

Selam’s illness confined her to the hospital for weeks on end, causing her to fall behind in school on more than one occasion. It was the memory of her father and his desire for her to pursue an education that kept her on track, working twice as hard to catch up on missed assignments and maintain a high GPA.

To help her attain her educational goals, Selam joined the Making Connections program. She recalls how she could walk into the office to either get help from the tutors or information about colleges, and would always leave with answers. She also admires Senait, whom she calls “the mother of the program” because she “ checks up on students to make sure everyone is on top of their work.”

With help from the Making Connection program, Selam will be attending the University of Washington and hopes to enter the School of Nursing. Selam is thankful for the Stanley and Berthe Habib Endowed Scholarship because of the financial aid it will provide her in the coming year.