This year, Temple University welcomed Ayna Mammedova and Andres Mondragon as the first two inaugural recipients of the #YouAreWelcomeHere scholarship. What started as a viral hashtag created by Temple has now evolved into a movement supported by more than 5o colleges, with Temple University a leader among them.
Leah Hetzell, director of International Student Affairs at Temple, helped with turning the viral movement into a scholarship. She said Temple wanted to “open our arms wide to our international students. We wanted to make sure that they felt included. So we really started using this hashtag, we started making videos, and over time it started to grow and grow, and so it spread to other universities, and now there’s hundreds of other schools that are on board with this.”
In order to apply, students were asked to send in an application and a corresponding essay or video. Ayna decided to send a video for Temple staff that showed the culture of her native country of Turkmenistan, while Andres provided an essay where he discussed moving women’s rights forward in his native country of Peru.
The participating colleges involved with the #YouAreWelcomeHere program offer two renewable scholarships to international students every year, worth at least 50% off tuition.
Andres said the scholarship provided him with an opportunity: “I’ve gotten to meet so many new people from [the United States] and learn about different cultures and beliefs and all of that, which I probably wouldn’t have been able to do had I stayed in Peru.”
Ayna explained how she felt when she found out she won: “When the results came out, I was really surprised. I didn’t believe it. I told my mom, she was really happy for me. I told my academic advisor, she was really proud of me. I just didn’t believe it. When I came to the U.S. I was like ‘Wow, I’m here. My dream has come true.'”
Hetzell said that currently, the plan is to keep the scholarship program the same as it was this year, meaning next school year Temple will have two more recipients. She said the goal to create a community: “The goal is for us to keep this program and grow it, and have that community of #YouAreWelcomeHere scholarship winners who are together and who are all making change.”
If you’re interested in learning more about the #YouAreWelcomeHere Scholarship and how to get involved, click this link here.