The Rising Tide Leadership program, which provides pre-college summer program experiences for Portland Public Schools students from immigrant families, is now in its sixth and final year. Thanks to the generosity of donors, the program recently awarded five $5,000 scholarships to PPS high school students from immigrant families.
This year’s winners are Ali Jalil, a Casco Bay High School junior from Iraq, who wants to be an architect; Nadra Hassan, a Casco Bay High School sophomore from Somalia, who aspires to become a surgeon; Jael Mowa, a Deering High School junior from Angola, who is interested in immigration law; Samila Sayed, a Casco Bay High School sophomore whose parents are from Afghanistan and who is aiming for nursing school; and Shy Paca, a Deering High School sophomore from Namibia with her sights set on becoming a medical doctor.
The scholarships will enable the winners to attend a pre-college program on a college campus in the summer of 2024. The experience will help them to pursue their academic and personal interests, strengthen their college applications, and develop valuable leadership skills.
The award, which is privately funded and administered, was created in memory of John Williams Burgess, who passed away in 2018. John was a graduate of the University of Southern Maine, a passionate advocate for social justice and active citizenship, and a lover of all things nautical. The Rising Tide award honors him and his mother, Linda Ward. Linda is an educator and artist who has worked with Maine’s immigrant community for more than 30 years.
The presentation/awards event was held Nov. 14, at King Middle School in Portland. The event was attended by parents and other family members, teachers, school administrators, donors, and other friends of the program, as the students shared their stories in Pecha Kucha style presentations.
A panel of three judges – Chris Hyland, John’s lifelong friend; Nancy Viehmnn, mother of another lifelong friend of John’s; and Ruth Dater, a close family friend – selected the winning students. It was not an easy task for the judges because the presentations of all the students were outstanding – so outstanding that they awarded scholarships to all five participants.
This is the final year of Rising Tide. Mentors Steven Price, Margie Knight, and Linda Ward said that working with the PPS immigrant students has been a transforming experience for everyone involved. Steve Price said: “Truly these young men and women give us hope for a brighter future.”
PHOTO: Shown (from left) are 2023 Rising Tide scholarship awardees Shy Paca; Samila Sayed; Nadra Hassan; Ali Jalil; and Jael Mowa.