Mason’s Early Identification Program celebrates new high school graduates headed to college

Nora Kurtishi wears her EIP alumni stole
Nora Kurtishi

Nora Kurtishi, a Manassas Park High School graduate headed to George Mason University in the fall, credits Mason’s Early Identification Program for her success in high school. Kurtishi, who plans to study biology, is a University Scholar and received a College of Science Promise Scholarship. She will be attending Mason’s Honors College.

“The program was really grounding to me since I was meeting like-minded students on a regular basis,” said Kurtishi. “They, along with the EIP mentors, helped me not lose sight of my goal of college.”

Kurtishi, who spoke at this year’s EIP graduation ceremony, was one of 112 graduating seniors from high schools across Northern Virginia who participated in EIP. The program has helped first-generation college bound students achieve academic success for more than 30 years.

Donovan CLoud is show outside wearing his EIP stole
Donovan Cloud

EIP provides access to educational resources, mentoring and programming for students from seven local public school systems, including Fairfax County, Manassas City, Prince William County, Arlington County, and Alexandria City. The program is intended to equip students with skills that will help them become lifelong learners, leaders and responsible global citizens. Mason students, many of whom are first-generation college students themselves, help with mentoring.

Last month, the students celebrated their graduations from EIP and their respective schools. Ninety-five of the 112 graduating seniors have been admitted to college.  Ninety-two of EIP seniors applied to Mason, 82 were admitted, and 41 have decided to attend Mason.

Donovan Cloud, who graduated from Unity Reed High School, said EIP allowed him to gain confidence in himself. Cloud has more recently developed an interest in graphic design.

“EIP helped me blossom,” said Cloud, who will be attending Mason’s Honors College and is exploring what his major will be. “I was more insecure about myself, but EIP lifted that off of me.”

Khaseem F. Davis, EIP director, said this group of graduating seniors is special because of their awareness of social issues and determination to do something to change the world.

“Collectively, they’ve witnessed a great deal of social struggle,” Davis said. “They are more self-aware and socially aware than a lot of the students I’ve witnessed graduate from EIP. Many of them want to pursue careers that will allow them to make societal change. I see many of them doing great things in the years to come.”

Kalkidan Negussie stands outside wearing her EIP stole and a tan pants suit
Kalkidan Negussie

Kalkidan Negussie, who graduated from West Potomac High School, plans to study medical laboratory science at Mason.

Negussie said EIP’s summer academy helped her get a head start on her classes for the fall and intensified her interest in the STEM field.

“I’m interested in the medical field because I have a passion for helping others,” said Negussie, who also will be attending the Honors College. “I want to help people in dire need.”

Monica Amaya, another Manassas Park High School graduate, plans on studying information systems and operations management as an Honors College University Scholar. Amaya said that EIP mentors were inspirational.

Monica Amaya is shown outside wearing her EIP stole
Monica Amaya
“The mentors supported us with any questions we had about academics and colleges,” Amaya said. “They also got us emotionally. They weren’t just random people, but actual students at Mason who had gone through what we went through to get there.”

Amaya, who works part-time in a restaurant to help her family financially, says she’s looking forward to meeting new people in college and continuing her goal of finding a fulfilling career.

“It still hasn’t hit me that I’ve graduated,” Amaya said.