OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Students from various ethnic backgrounds receive Smith Diversity Foundation scholarships. The five students selected this year have heritages that include countries like South Korea, Ethiopia, and Cuba.
Sixteen-year-old Elora Trotter is ready to challenge and take on the world.
"It's a matter of expanding worlds. When you bring people of different cultures and backgrounds into the foreground you get different individuals. When you bring everyone from one certain group they are all going to be saying the same thing and we are interested in bringing in individuals who will be saying different things," said Trotter, a scholarship recipient.
"I think education can lift so many people from difficult positions and programs like this and the others like Avenue Scholars can help them better themselves in the long haul, and better themselves in life," said Mark Versen, chief development officer at Lutheran Family Services.
The other four students are Josephine Amoo from Scottsbluff, Kendry Arrazcaeta-Duray from Madison, Dhugomsa Mohammed from South Sioux City, Nebraska, and Safiyah Rab, from Omaha.
They all received $25,000. The scholarship money is renewable for four years as long as they maintain a GPA of 3.4.
They had a total of about 250 applicants and the people at Lutheran Family Services said while it was difficult to narrow it down, they do believe they have their top five, which are the best of the best. They say the caliber of students made the choice a difficult one.
"Their ambitions, going into medicine, journalism, Elora is going to NYU in Abu Dhabi, Stanford, UNL, UNO... great schools and programs to really advance their education," added Versen.
Trotter added that reading the diverse voices of others has helped her make a decision to choose literature as one of her majors.
"When I read Gabrielle Marcia's book, I was like, 'Here is a man who understands me and can thus inspire me and drive people in a way other people cannot,' and so it saved my life in that way," she said.
The scholarship program is not only changing the lives of students but others as well.
"It's wonderful. I always tell the Smiths that they are changing lots of lives but the first person they changed was mine by giving me the opportunity to do this job," said Megan McDowell, a scholarship manager with Lutheran Family Services.
While Omaha is working toward a more diverse community, Trotter said it needs active participants.
"In order to get the most out of Omaha, you have to be a seeker. If you are just sitting on your couch, it is not going to slap you in the face," she said. "I am getting a chance to see a new person. I am very interested in what the narrative and course of my life are going to be and I feel this is the exact right step that I am taking and I know that I am going to find more about myself. I am going to know who I am and this is the journey that I am on. So I am very excited, very excited."
The application period opens up on September 1, 2021.
For more information, visit the Lutheran Family Services website.