Scholarship winner Abdifatah Osman (left) speaks at the 2018 Charlottesville Scholarship Program award ceremony after being introduced by Charlottesville School Board Chairman Juandiego Wade. Credit: Credit: Josh Mandell, Charlottesville Tomorrow

The Charlottesville Scholarship Program celebrated its newest class Wednesday at CitySpace.

“This is why we do what we do as School Board members and educators,” School Board Chairman Juandiego Wade said. “We want to see our students realize their full potential and go on to bigger and better things.”

The program was started in 2001 with an initial grant of $250,000 from the city, and it is supported by donations from local businesses and individuals.

The Charlottesville Scholarship Program will support 32 students in the upcoming academic year. This year’s winners can receive as much as $9,000 over four years, starting with an initial award of $1,500.

The program also pairs winners with a “navigator” — a Charlottesville-based volunteer who will offer them advice and encouragement throughout college.

“We don’t just write a check and never see the fruits of that,” said Joseph Sabol, chairman of the Charlottesville Scholarship Program board. 

The Charlottesville Scholarship Program’s 2018 winners are Mia Bostic, Inigo Drake, Maria Isabel Serrano Gonzalez, Aleena Haidari, Waheda Haidari, Nadia Khaydari, Fatima Lopez, Abdifatah Osman, Dyshe Smith and Anna Tran.

All the winners are graduates of Charlottesville High School from low- or middle-income households. Many will be the first in their families to attend college.

A committee of Charlottesville Scholarship Program board members and CHS guidance counselors selected 10 winners from a field of dozens of applicants. 

Gonzalez was admitted to the Virginia Tech School of Architecture and Design. She said she became fascinated by interior design in eighth grade, when she completed a floor-planning exercise for her home economics course.

“I started floor-planning whenever I had free time,” Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez said she had to work jobs throughout high school to help her family cover living expenses. However, she said her mother told her not to worry about the high cost of college.

“My mom was always supportive of me going to college; she told me the money would come from somewhere,” Gonzalez said. “I listened to her and applied to my first-choice college. I am glad what my mom said came true.”

Drake was admitted to the California Institute of the Arts, where he plans to study acting. He has acted in plays at CHS and at the Interlochen Center for the Arts in Michigan.

“I am really grateful that I can keep pursuing this dream,” Drake said.


Janiya Mott, a student at Lynchburg University, won the Charlottesville Scholarship Program’s Preston Coiner Scholarship for the third consecutive year.

The Preston Coiner Scholarship was established in honor of the late Coiner, who served as vice president of the Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society and was the historian for the city’s Board of Architectural Review. 

Applicants for the Preston Coiner Scholarship, who can be residents of the city or Albemarle County, must write an essay on some aspect of local history.



A scholarship fund for students at Monticello High School in Albemarle made its debut this spring.

The Phyllis M. Brackett Memorial Scholarship is a new annual award for a lower-income Monticello High School student who is an African-American female that will be a first-generation college student.

LaToya T. Brackett, a visiting assistant professor of African-American Studies at University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington, established the scholarship in memory of her mother, who died in January. 

Brackett grew up in Covesville and graduated from Monticello High in 2002. She attended Cornell University as a first-generation college student and went on to earn her doctorate at Michigan State University.

“I wanted to come back here and create a scholarship for ‘a girl like me,’” Brackett said.

For her doctoral dissertation, Brackett studied factors influencing the retention of African-American students at predominantly white universities. She found that first-generation college students often lacked social capital to support their academic success.

“The students who receive the scholarship can find a mentor in me,” Brackett said. 

Brackett said the scholarship provides unrestricted funding to assist with the transition from high school to college. This year’s award is $1,000. 

“The money goes right to the student, and they can use it for whatever they need,” Brackett said. 

Guidance counselors at Monticello High nominated Makayla Austin to receive the first Phyllis M. Brackett Memorial Scholarship. She will attend Virginia Commonwealth University this fall. 

“I was shocked and honored to be chosen,” Austin said. 

Austin was a Monticello High cheerleader and softball player, volunteered with Habitat for Humanity and was inducted into the National English Honor Society. She also has worked at restaurants since she turned 16.

Austin said she plans to pursue a degree in social work while also taking courses in African-American Studies. 

Brackett said she is seeking small donations to sustain the scholarship while she works to establish a permanent scholarship fund. More information can be found at



Josh Mandell graduated from Yale in 2016 and has been recognized by the Virginia Press Association with five awards for education writing, health, science and environmental writing and multimedia reporting.