Seven JCPS Seniors Awarded Superintendent’s Scholarships

Students surprised by Pollio, checks

By Mark Hebert

May 19, 2023 - Seven Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) seniors who have overcome significant obstacles to get to graduation day, are receiving a boost to help pay for college. The students are receiving a total of $70,000 from JCPS. The scholarships are funded by donations from JCPS employees and community members. JCPS Superintendent Dr. Marty Pollio surprised the students at their schools today with the news that they would receive a scholarship to the school of their choice.

"This is one of my favorite days of the year,” Pollio said. “We get to help some deserving students, whose families may not have the means to afford college, realize their dream. These talented JCPS students are going to further their education and make a difference in the world. We couldn’t be prouder of them.”

As part of the selection process, finalists for the scholarships wrote personal statements, prepared presentations outlining their plans and financial needs, and took part in interviews with Pollio and other JCPS administrators.

Scholarship recipients are:

Naira Abedi, Doss - $7,000

Born in a small village in Uganda, Naira’s family had limited access to healthcare and medicine. She was often ill as a child and required frequent hospitalizations.The village doctor helped her family, and the memory of this kindness inspired her to pursue her own career in medicine. Naira will attend Bellarmine University this Fall.

Jonah Belance, Southern - $10,500

Dr. Pollio and a student hold a check for $10,500.

Jonah grew up in a low-income, single parent household and was diagnosed with ADHD at a young age. Despite early struggles in school, he is now an honor student and president of both the Black Student Union and the Senior Class at Southern High School. Jonah has won numerous awards for his community service including the YMCA Youth Character Award. He plans to attend the University of Louisville and major in biomedical science.

Raven Brackens, Marion C. Moore - $10,500

A student smiles and slaps hands with another person.

Raven started her own small business in elementary school when she discovered a passion for baking. It was this passion that led her to attend Marion C. Moore High School where she is in the culinary program and recently competed in the national ProStart Invitational. Raven lost her mother at age four to pancreatic cancer and attributes her success to her maternal grandmother and a strong network of aunts and uncles. She plans to attend the University of Kentucky in the fall and study food science.

Saif Al Khafaji, Waggener - $10,500

Saif is an Iraqi refugee who immigrated to the United States last year. He works full-time and is also the guardian for his two younger brothers, both JCPS students. Saif has dreamed of being a pilot since he was 14. He has completed over 70 hours of flight training and recently flew solo for the first time. Saif plans to attend Eastern Kentucky University to study aviation and obtain his commercial pilot license.

Tamiya King, Louisville Male - $10,500

Tamiya has spent the school year as a full-time dual credit student at the University of Louisville. She will graduate with over eighteen hours of college credit that she will be able to apply to her studies next year at Western Kentucky University (WKU). Tamiya has always wanted to be an attorney and plans to attend the Brandeis School of Law after finishing her bachelor’s degree at WKU.

Ulises Vega Rabell, Doss - $10,500

Ulises immigrated to the United States from Cuba four years ago. He faced many obstacles such as his parents’ divorce, acclimating to American culture, and learning a new language. As a first generation college student, Ulises worked diligently to find help and resources to navigate the college application process. He plans to attend the University of Louisville and major in business administration.

Gia “Huy” Tran, Iroquois - $10,500

A student receives a check from Dr. Marty Pollio.

Huy came to the United States from Vietnam in eighth grade. He is a first generation college student and a valedictorian in his class with a 4.2 weighted grade point average. Huy is a participant in the Aspire Higher program, which helped him through the college application process. He is passionate about the environment and plans to attend the University of Louisville to pursue a career in solar engineering.