“I thought I had hit a dead end.”

That’s how Ibrahim Yasin '22 describes the way he felt in the spring of 2018. 

Two years earlier, he and his family had moved to Virginia from Somaliland. Yasin had finished high school and was hoping to be able to attend a university in the United States, but he now found himself in a difficult position. He had been accepted for the coming fall semester at Virginia Tech, one of his top choices, but he knew that he and his family could not afford the tuition. 

“How could I possibly pay for this?” Yasin asked himself. He began to think that he would have to decline the university’s offer.

Then, just days before the deadline for him to respond, Yasin received big news. He had been awarded a scholarship through the InclusiveVT Excellence Award.

“It completely changed everything,” he said. “That was what made it possible for me to study at Virginia Tech.”

The InclusiveVT Excellence Award serves as a crucial tool for the university to recruit, retain, and graduate high-achieving Hokies, like Yasin, who come from a variety of underrepresented and underserved backgrounds. Managed by the Office for Inclusion and Diversity, since 2017 the award has provided close to $100,000 to more than 30 students so far.

Now, the impact of this program is poised to grow substantially, thanks in part to a recently approved university match. The dollar-for-dollar match will double the impact of all gifts to the InclusiveVT Excellence Scholarship Fund, up to a total of $100,000.

“This is an incredible opportunity for us to give more underrepresented students an opportunity to come to Virginia Tech, stay enrolled, graduate, and find career opportunities that can have generational benefits for them and their families,” said Menah Pratt-Clarke, Virginia Tech’s vice president for strategic affairs and diversity, who created the InclusiveVT Excellence Award to help students from historically underserved communities overcome hurdles on their path to graduation. 

“I discovered that so many of our underserved and underrepresented students have the desire and talent to succeed academically at Virginia Tech, but given their challenging personal and family circumstances, many students needed financial support to attend the university and additional financial support to graduate,” Pratt-Clarke said. “The InclusiveVT Excellence Award is our answer to these challenges.”

Menah Pratt-Clarke, Virginia Tech’s vice president for strategic affairs and diversity.
Menah Pratt-Clarke, Virginia Tech’s vice president for strategic affairs and diversity.

The Virginia Tech Difference: Advancing Beyond Boundaries, a strategic plan approved by the Board of Visitors in 2019, lays out a set of goals aimed at solidifying and advancing Virginia Tech’s dedication to inclusion and diversity. Among them is a commitment to achieving 25 percent representation of underrepresented minority students in the entering class, including both freshmen and transfers, by 2022.

An initial $25,000 portion of the match was made available in late February to amplify the impact of gifts to the fund from Virginia Tech supporters on the university’s Giving Day. More than 250 Hokies rose to the occasion by making donations to the InclusiveVT Excellence Scholarship Fund; in total, they raised over $56,000 to support the scholarship program. 

Among those who have committed to answering the university’s call to support the fund are Janelle Davis ’01, DVM ’05, and her husband, former Virginia Tech and NFL wide receiver André Davis ’01. Long-time advocates of the university’s inclusion and diversity work, the Davises recently made a generous gift of $25,000 to the fund, which was matched by the university. 

“Giving to the InclusiveVT Excellence Award was very important to our family because of the impact and future opportunities it will provide to qualified students from underrepresented communities,” Janelle Davis said. “Our hope is to inspire these amazing students to become leaders in their respective fields of study while serving those inside and outside their spheres of influence."

The Davises’ support, combined with that of the Hokie Nation on Giving Day, puts the Office for Inclusion and Diversity just past the halfway point toward the $100,000 matching gift goal.

The alumni community is also supporting the InclusiveVT Excellence Scholarship Fund by participating in this year’s Black Alumni Reunion. Five dollars of each registration benefit the fund. So far, nearly 300 Hokies have signed up for the event.

For InclusiveVT Excellence Award recipients like Yasin, the impact of gifts to the program is already being felt. Now a junior majoring in business information and technology and an active participant in student organizations like the Entrepreneurship Club and the Philosophy Club, Yasin is looking forward to a successful career after graduation and, he hopes, an eventual return to Somaliland to get involved in politics. 

“Going to Virginia Tech is a huge deal for me, and I’m able to do it because of this scholarship,” Yasin said. “It has made it possible for me to be here.”

Virginia Tech supporters who wish to make a matched gift to the InclusiveVT Excellence Scholarship Fund can do so online or by calling (800) 533-1144.

— Written by Brian Snell

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