The back-to-school season is an exciting time for us at Comcast as several of our key Community Investment initiatives kick into full gear. Among them is the Comcast Leaders and Achievers® Scholarship Program, through which each year we recognize high school seniors for their academic achievements and community leadership. Since 2001, we’ve awarded more than $21.6 million to approximately 21,000 students nationwide. Most of the scholarships are for $1,000 apiece, but a few provide up to $10,000 in aid in recognition of extraordinary students.
As we begin the call for nominations for this year’s program, we caught up with college freshman Dawit Gebresellassie to learn what it was like to be named a Comcast Leader and Achiever last year, and what he’s looking forward to as he begins his next journey.
Dawit is a graduate of George Washington High School in Denver, Colo., and recently began his freshman year at The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.
What did it mean to you to be chosen as a scholarship winner?
Dawit: When I was selected as one of two Colorado students to receive the $10,000 Comcast Founders award, my family and I were shocked and ecstatic. It was the first major scholarship that I had received, and to receive it from a large company, like Comcast, was an honor. For one of the first times in my life, I felt like I could help alleviate the burden for my parents and make things easier financially. As a first generation college student in my family, it’s helping me pursue my educational passions at a school that might otherwise be out of my reach.
Who are your role models and why?
Dawit: My parents. I’ve seen them work so hard to make sure that I grew up in better conditions than they did. They were born in poverty-stricken villages in the mountains of Ethiopia, living in one-room houses made of stone and branches. They brought themselves to the United States more than 20 years ago, and their work ethic is something I’ve always admired. When I see my dad working seven days a week, it gives me a sense of responsibility and focus. It drives me to succeed.
Why is giving back to the community so important to you?
Dawit: I have had the chance to visit Ethiopia and see the conditions like poverty and lack of clean water firsthand. I want to do as much as I can to alleviate suffering in my home country. Something I heard once that has stuck with me is: "potential is unlimited, but opportunity is not." Everyone deserves an opportunity to reach their full potential, and I have always felt a strong obligation to pay it forward.
Why did you choose the University of Pennsylvania?
Dawit: It is the only business school that I found with a Social Impact and Responsibility concentration. The curriculum puts a next level focus on social entrepreneurship, which is something that I want to pursue in my career. I was also really attracted by Penn’s location in a big city, and the variety of student activities and clubs. Everyone I’ve met here so far has been incredibly humble and down to earth.
What are your career aspirations?
Dawit: I plan to start a project to serve underprivileged schools in East Africa and South America this year. I will continue to pursue my passion to give back throughout my career, while also exploring other interests such as marketing, management, finance and entrepreneurship.