Maryam Ibrahim and Jacob Lierman recently received the 2021 Presidential Scholarship to attend Fontbonne tuition-free this fall. Lierman is a senior at St. Francis Borgia Regional High School, and Ibrahim is a senior at Gateway STEM High School. Both students were surprised during class by their guidance counselors with the exciting news.
“I was in the middle of giving a presentation in class when my counselor came in with balloons and a big sign to congratulate me,” Lierman said. “It was such a surreal experience. I couldn’t believe it.”
High school seniors who meet a certain set of academic and merit qualifications are encouraged to apply for Fontbonne’s prestigious Presidential Scholarship. A number of applicants are then invited to campus to participate in interviews with faculty members, contribute to a discussion with their peers about responsible citizenship, and participate in a group activity. Scholarship winners receive four years of full tuition to Fontbonne.
Ibrahim is grateful for the award because she will not have to worry about working during college to pay for her tuition. She also likes how the scholarship requires her to maintain at least a 3.5 GPA during her time at Fontbonne, as she plans to major in biology and apply to medical school after graduating.
“I was so worried about how I was going to pay for college and where I was going to go,” Ibrahim said. “Fontbonne went above and beyond to surprise my family and welcome me to the school.”
Beyond academic merit, winners of the Presidential Scholarship must have participated in a significant number of volunteer and extracurricular activities in high school. Lierman, who has always felt a close connection to his hometown, has extensive community service experience.
“I stayed involved with the students and teachers at my grade school and high school by helping wherever I could,” Lierman said. “As a student at a Catholic school, I know that the community often relies on volunteers for support, and I felt called to give back wherever possible.”
Ibrahim also has considerable volunteer experience, from checking temperatures for the American Red Cross to assisting voters at the Omega Center. She has won a number of awards from the Saturday Scholars Program at Washington University in St. Louis, Harris Stowe State University and the St. Louis Internship Program.
Lierman plans to get involved with Fontbonne’s Campus Ministry and join the university’s newspaper staff. He said he is excited to attend Fontbonne because of its Catholic heritage and rich history. Both Lierman and Ibrahim are looking forward to the small class sizes the university offers.
“I felt so welcomed during the campus tour, and the atmosphere of the school was everything I was looking for,” Ibrahim said.
Ibrahim was impressed by the robust biology and religious studies programs at Fontbonne. Her goal is to become a neurologist to help patients better understand complicated neurological illnesses. Originally from Somalia, Ibrahim’s family struggled to find comprehensive medical care for her sister who suffers from seizures.
“Before my family came to the U.S. in 2017, my sister was unable to get the medications she needed and develop a better understanding of her illness,” said Ibrahim. “My family felt so confused, and I thought that if I became a neurologist, I could teach others about the diseases they are suffering from so they don’t have to go through the same struggle.”
Inspired by teachers who motivated him to learn and grow, Lierman plans to major in history and pursue a career in secondary education. He wants to teach elementary or middle school students at St. Ignatius of Loyola Parish and School where he attended grade school.
“I like seeing generations of families going to the same school like my grade school, and I want to help ensure the school will be successful for generations to come,” Lierman said. “I think one of the most rewarding jobs is to help someone grow academically.”
Both Ibrahim and Lierman will begin courses at Fontbonne this fall. Ibrahim can’t wait to get involved in activities at Fontbonne, including the WING Leaders and work study programs.
“I’m excited for more opportunities to explore different courses and majors as well as helping welcome students from international places,” Ibrahim said. “I am looking forward to spending my next chapter of life in an environment where I feel included, welcomed and loved. I am impatiently waiting for fall to come.”