I have worked with many young people who needed help to find a path to college but two brothers, Arya and Shahin Ahmadi, have particularly touched me due to the hardships they have endured and the resilience they have shown.
Arya came to the U.S. on a student visa from Iran to study physics at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK). But his life changed drastically when his family was forced to flee Iran due to religious persecution because of their Christian faith. Arya and his family were able to file for asylum in the U.S. but his parents lost many of their assets when they fled their home country, as well as leaving well-paying jobs. These financial hardships, as well as the fact that Arya became severely depressed due to the trauma his family had experienced, led him to withdraw from from UTK after only two years.
I first met Arya’s brother, Shahin, who went to the same high school as my sons. I worked with Shahin on his college applications and he is now attending Davidson College on a full scholarship. Through working with Shahin, I got to know Arya, whose situation is more complicated because, during his two years as an international student at UTK, he accrued $50,000 in loans.
Arya’s dream is to finish his college degree but because he is not a U.S. citizen, he is not eligible for in-state tuition or Federal financial aid such as a Pell Grant or a Stafford Loan. Due to this reality, he cannot afford to return to school until he pays off his current loans. He is incredibly smart and motivated but is struggling under the burden of this debt. Any donation to help Arya pay off his loans would move him closer to his goal of returning to college to complete his degree and help him build a life here in the U.S.
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