Townsend Harris High School student from Jackson Heights is semifinalist for major college scholarship

Photo courtesy of Nefertari Elshiekh

A student at Flushing’s Townsend Harris High School student was recognized for her outstanding academic excellence and contribution to the community, after being announced as a semifinalist for a prestigious college scholarship. 

Nefertari Elshiekh from Jackson Heights was chosen as one of 565 outstanding high school seniors selected on Jan. 29 as semifinalists for the Cooke College Scholarship Program, which provides recipients with up to $40,000 annually for four years to enable them to attend some of the top colleges and universities in the United States.

Elshiekh, 18, a senior at Townsend Harris High School at Queens College in Flushing, was also named as a regional finalist for the Coca-Cola Foundation Scholarship.

“It feels like all of my hard work has paid off, and it’s a wonderful opportunity that am hoping I can be a part of these communities, because it’s a lot more than just winning the actual monetary money that they will be giving me,” said Elshiekh. “It recognizes all of the hard work that I’ve put in throughout high school, it also really gives me hope that I will have people to turn to in the future.”

Students applied from all 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Armed Forces Pacific, and American Samoa — representing 3,782 schools.

Elshiekh, editor of the school newspaper “The Classic,” was selected based on exceptional academic ability and achievement, financial need, persistence, and service to others and leadership.

Once a week, she volunteers her time at Dancing Dreams, a non-profit organization in Bayside that provides adaptive dance classes to children with physical disabilities, and works at the Sea, Air, and Space Museum in Manhattan as a junior educator, helping visitors interact with the exhibits at the museum.

“I’m a dancer myself and I’ve been dancing since I was three, so I’ve combined both of those passions of mine working with children and dancing,” said Elshiekh. “I’m very passionate about working with children, and I want to be a special education teacher in the future. … I want to be able to take what I’ve learned from working with Dancing Dreams and create an education that is tailored to children with special needs because they have that opportunity to succeed.”

After taking an oath in her freshman year at Townsend Harris to leave their city greater than they found it, Elshiekh decided to volunteer at the late state Senator Jose Peralta’s office in Jackson Heights, participating in community parades, donations, and special events.

The 2019 Cooke College Scholarship recipients will be announced in April. The semifinalists were chosen from 6,174 applicants. Last year, 106 semifinalists were selected to receive the scholarship.

“The students in this semifinalist cohort are some of the most high-achieving and driven in the country,” said Seppy Basili, executive director of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation. “They have achieved success well beyond that of many of their more advantaged peers, and we know they will accomplish far more in college and beyond.”

Elshiekh has worked throughout high school to help support her family, and, if she wins the scholarships, it will allow her to continue her academic journey without financial burden, she says.

“I’ve worked hard to get to this point and it’s out of my hands,” said Elshiekh. “But regardless of what happens, I am proud to have just made it this far.”