East York teen Paniz Moradi Zadeh arrived in Canada two years ago, unable to speak English. Even then, she had a natural humanitarian streak and was helping refugees like herself. Now she has been awarded a $100,000 scholarship for her work.
Moradi Zadeh, 19, a refugee from Iran, received the scholarship through the LORAN Scholars Foundation for leading the charge to find Canadian sponsors for a family she met while in exile in Turkey. She also taught math and music to children in war zones.
“When I came to Canada two and a half years ago, I didn’t know any English. I didn’t know anything. I had to start from the beginning, and now I’m in this situation, which is like a dream come true,” said Moradi Zadeh said in an interview with the Toronto Observer.
The award includes a tuition waiver for four years of school at her choice of 25 universities across Canada, as well as one-on-one mentorship, leadership retreats and work experience.
Unlike many other scholarships that are awarded strictly based on academic success, the LORAN Scholars Foundation looks for individuals who have the potential to be future leaders of Canada, said CEO Meghan Moore.
Moradi Zadeh, a student at Marc Garneau Collegiate Institute, fit the bill.
“She talks about challenging herself in order to help someone else have a better life, and that is the epitome of a LORAN scholar,” Moore said.
Thirty four other students across the country received the same award this year.
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Data and photos collected form the LORAN Scholars Foundation
The LORAN Scholars Foundation was founded in 1988. It’s the first national organization to grant awards to undergraduate students “based on a mix of academic achievement, extracurricular activity and leadership potential,” according to the organization’s website.
The foundation receives endowments from over 670 donors annually, and has 506 alumni working in Canada and around the globe.
Moradi Zadeh is working with a Canadian charity called AURA, which helps sponsor and settle refugees, she said. The family she recommended to the organization have been in Turkey for five years.
“Their life was on hold,” she said. “When I got here and saw the life and the opportunities for people in this country, I couldn’t stop thinking about others who are less fortunate, in countries like Syria and Turkey where they are still waiting for a future.”
Moradi Zadeh says she plans on studying biology or science. She initially began applying for scholarships because she knew she’d need financial aid to attend university.
Prior to receiving the news of her successful application, she was planning on attending school in Ontario. Now she wants to explore other areas of Canada.
“It’s not just a scholarship,” said Moradi Zadeh. “It’s a support system that turns you into a better person.”