High school graduates head to Mason with scholarships, thanks to Early Identification Program

Brenda Leverson, Early Identification Program participant and incoming Mason freshman, bumps elbows with Fairfax County Public Schools superintendent Scott Brabrand at the 2021 EIP Senior Graduation and Recognition Ceremony. Photo by Evan Cantwell/Creative Services

Brenda Leverson, a first-generation college student born in Honduras, is attending George Mason University this fall on a full tuition scholarship through Mason’s Early Identification Program. A graduate of Annandale High School in Northern Virginia, Leverson will enroll in the Honors College and intends to study business administration and accounting.

“I am really happy and proud of myself for working this hard and achieving my goals,” said Leverson, who has worked part-time since she was 15 to help support her family.

Leverson is one of 32 graduating seniors in Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) who participated in the Early Identification Program (EIP), and one of eight FCPS students to accept partial or full scholarships to Mason. In total, 108 Northern Virginia graduating seniors participated in EIP. Of that amount, 48 have chosen to go to Mason. Twenty-eight of those students have been awarded partial or full scholarships.

EIP participant Muhammad Farhan Babar spoke at the Senior Graduation and Recognition Ceremony in May. Photo by Evan Cantwell/Creative Services

“This is a special group of students,” said Khaseem Davis, EIP director. “They are academically strong, socially aware and have a good understanding of themselves. They know they have to work and sacrifice to get through hardships, and I’m so proud of them.”

EIP is an extensive outreach effort to first-generation, college-bound students in the Northern Virginia area. Established in 1987, the program is designed to help students hone their academic skills and increase their confidence, while providing access to educational resources. EIP works in seven local public school systems, including Arlington County, Falls Church City, Prince William County and Alexandria City. The multi-year program provides mentoring, enrichment classes and study sessions, as well as college preparation assistance and scholarships.

This year, FCPS leads in the number of EIP students receiving scholarships.

“As a district, we are grateful for the EIP partnership with George Mason University,” said Eileen Ruzicka, FCPS’s EIP Liaison.  “It has increased access and support for FCPS middle and high school students who are from populations that are historically underrepresented on college campuses, especially those who face challenges caused by poverty, racism and lack of access to resources.”

EIP participant Stacy Maravi poses with her father at the Senior Graduation and Recognition Ceremony. Photo provided

A graduate of Fairfax High School, Stacy Maravi will also be attending Mason as part of the Honors College and plans to study bioengineering. Maravi, a University Scholar, said that EIP helped her focus and better understand the college process.

“Without EIP, I wouldn’t have gotten where I am,” said Maravi.

Muhammad Farhan Babar, a graduate of FCPS’ Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, received a full tuition scholarship and will also be attending as part of the Honors College. Babar said he chose Mason for its engineering program, affordability and its diverse and welcoming community. Babar, who was born in Pakistan, credits EIP for helping him with resources when he needed them and providing him with mentors.

“Through EIP, I’ve experienced the community at Mason, and I enjoyed what I experienced,” said Babar. “The community is great.”