Pursuing Dreams. Finding Purpose. Transforming Lives.

Gannon has remained dedicated to providing accessible education to students since it was founded. Establishing the Archbishop Gannon Scholarship program in 2014 was a testament to that dedication as it provides full-tuition scholarships to high school students in Erie Public Schools. A total of 90 students have started the program since its inception.

Featured are three of those students’ stories of how this program has transformed their lives and enabled them to uncover their purpose and make an impact on the lives of others.

TARÉ STANDBACK

Junior, Respiratory Care

Q: What did it mean to you to be an Archbishop Gannon Scholarship recipient?

A: It is an honor, and it means a lot that I was chosen as a recipient. There are a lot of great opportunities that have come from attending Gannon, and I’ve met great people who I’ve built meaningful relationships with.

Q: Who has inspired you and made an influential impact on your life?

A: My professors and peers, and especially Heidi Brieger Noyes (director of Commuter Life), helped me put myself out there when I first started college. Also, my mom and grandmother have continued to motivate and inspire me. They both showed me a different type of love and taught me self-love, and always give great advice. They instilled my faith in God in me and taught me to believe in Him.

Q: What drives you toward your purpose of helping and healing others?

A: I think helping and healing others is my purpose in life. I think God gave me that gift. I want everyone to feel like they’re not alone, so I try to share a positive attitude with everyone. I’ve always wanted to help people since I was younger.

MUHAMMAD ALSAHLANI

Senior, International Studies and Political Science

Q: What academic opportunities have shaped your Gannon experience?

A: I completed an internship over the summer at the U.S. Committee of Refugees and Immigrants — International Institute of Erie. Here, I translated for refugees from Syria and North Africa, set up houses, and helped them apply for school and jobs.

Through Gannon’s semester exchange program, I studied in France last spring at Catholic University of Lille where I focused on how European foreign policy relates to the Middle East. I learned a lot about myself there.

Currently, I am in Washington, D.C. for an internship through The Washington Center program as a research analyst focusing on South East studies. I am conducting and helping professors in their research, attending and hosting conferences, and briefing others on what is happening in the region.

Q: What did it mean to you to be an Archbishop Gannon Scholarship recipient?

A: Receiving this scholarship opened doors for me. It motivated me and really helped in my decision to go to school. I don’t think my semester studying abroad would have been possible without this. 

HEBA ALSAHLANI

Senior, Master of Physician Assistant (5-Year)

Q: What did it mean to you to be an Archbishop Gannon Scholarship recipient?

A: It’s been an amazing opportunity that has made such a difference in my life. For this scholarship to be awarded to students in Erie shows that Gannon cares about the students in our community.

Q: How have you been involved in the community?

A: I’ve completed an internship through Gannon’s Center for Social Concerns through which I worked at the Multicultural Center in Erie. Here, I worked with ESL students and children ages 3 to 18 from a wide variety of cultures who had just come to the U.S. It was a completely different world, and I learned a lot about myself by being with the students.

Q: What do you find most memorable and impactful from your Gannon experience thus far?

A:  I’ve grown personally and academically in my four years here, and I am so thankful for every opportunity. My experiences working at Gannon’s STEM Center and with international students and refugees in the community were something that textbooks can’t teach.

My classroom experiences introduced me to research. I’ve had the opportunity to work alongside Dr. Quyen Aoh (assistant professor of biology) in our campus labs, as well as being a Research Fellow at the Center for Neuroscience at the University of Pittsburgh. I worked for 10 weeks with master- and doctoral-level students and was tasked with understanding a specific disease process. It makes me passionate to one day be treating patients, but it’s really exciting for me to now work on finding cures for diseases.

Q: How have you been able to find your purpose through those experiences?

A: My “why” has to do with people. I know that there are people internationally who need medical care now. It is one of my goals to be on the front lines to help them.

Another part of my “why” is my family, specifically my grandma. She knows education is power because she never had the opportunity to go to school. I’m doing this for her so she can see she is a part of my journey. It won’t be just me walking across the stage at graduation. I’m doing this for everyone who has helped push me to get here. 

MUSTAFA SARACEVIC

Senior, Biomedical Engineering

Q: What did it mean to you to be an Archbishop Gannon Scholarship recipient?

A: The Scholarship allowed me to be the first in my family to go to college. One of the reasons I do what I do every day is to make my parents proud. I graduated in the top of my class in high school, and I want to make it through Gannon for them.

Q: What does community mean to you?

A: To me, community means communication between diversity at its best. I live on a block in Erie where at least five nationalities are represented, but we all know who is who and we help each other.

As I’ve grown up I’ve asked my parents questions about my own nationality. I used to struggle with being a minority because I am Muslim. It was a long process to overcome that, but my education helped me. I’ve learned to show people it doesn’t matter what background you’re from, success comes from all sides of the world.

Q: What motivates you to serve in your community and give back to others?

A: Being a mentor as a commuter adviser at Gannon and tutoring through Upward Bound have been beautiful experiences. I am helping students grow and learn, but I am learning, too. It’s made me a better person.

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