Dr. Massoud Eghrari and his late wife, Isabella, knew from their personal experiences how grueling it could be to pursue an education and career. So, in addition to funding scholarships for education through The Immokalee Foundation, they established $500 scholarships for qualifying postsecondary students—provided the goal was to relax and have fun.
The annual scholarship was established in 2011 by Dr. Massoud Eghrari and his wife, Tayebeh, to honor Isabella. This very popular special award also serves as a great example of the creative ways community members continue to support The Immokalee Foundation’s very deserving student population.
“This was my mother’s idea from the beginning,” said Dr. Jacqueline S. Eghrari-Sabet. “My parents made a family foundation specifically to support educational efforts. My mom wanted a special scholarship for ‘fun.’ She was acutely aware of all that went into being a college student — that there were certain challenges for kids not from affluent backgrounds. She wanted them to soak up the WHOLE experience: to go to a game and cheer on the team, to have money to ‘hang out’ with their newfound friends, and most importantly, to take a break and eat ice cream.”
Immokalee Foundation President and CEO, herself an Immokalee native, understands the Eghrari family’s perspective all too well. “There’s a good chance every year that several of our student recipients may be experiencing the concept of ‘disposable income’ for the first time. Having the chance to eat out at a nice restaurant or purchase quality make-up and hair-care products is a luxury most in Immokalee cannot afford. For over ten years, the Eghraris have helped us teach a fundamental lesson: the vital importance of self-care. We are profoundly grateful.”
Students apply for the scholarship with an essay describing what they would do with the $500 prize. This year, ten first-semester college Freshmen were chosen.
Woodelene Pierre, a pre-nursing student at Florida Gulf Coast University, plans to use her money to pay for gas to help fund outings, whether by herself or with friends. “Since my dad’s passing, my mother has been having trouble financially, so I tend to be reluctant when asking for money to do things.”
Southern Union State College business student Ricardo Vazquez added: “I realize how much money I’ve spent on everyday expenses. Having $500 will allow me to go shopping and buy some new clothes and some new shoes. I would also like to use part of it to go to a concert back home with my friends.”
It was an easy call for University of Central Florida student and future pediatrician Juliana Rosales. “I live in Orlando, which has so many theme parks, but I haven’t visited any mainly because I didn’t have the money. I would definitely take a self-care day to Disney or really any theme park in the area.”
For Eghrari-Sabet, understandably, it’s very personal. “We get to fulfill my mom’s wish. To lift up those students that deserve a little pick me up. It’s wonderful to hear the stories of why the students are applying for this scholarship and how they confirm my mom’s understanding that a token of encouragement can boost you along the way. It is a feeling of reconnecting to my mom when I hear the voices of the students in their essays and know that she is clapping and smiling for them all.”