Scholarship recipient, youth and family advocate, and 2019 Miss District of Columbia USA Cordelia Cranshaw, BSW ’14, with donor Mary Kennedy, whose family established the John J. Hughes Social Work Scholarship in honor of their father.
When the father of Sumeet Shrivastava, MBA ’94, immigrated to the United States from India more than 40 years ago, it was a scholarship that paved the way.
“Our dad spent his childhood living in a home literally covered by a straw thatch roof,” Shrivastava told nearly 300 people who gathered March 28 for George Mason University’s Celebration of Scholarships dinner, an annual event that gives Mason benefactors the opportunity to meet student scholarship recipients who benefit from their generous gifts.
His father began his education in India, Shrivastava said, “and then through scholarships was able to come to the U.S. to earn his masters in computer science.” In 1974 the family settled in Fairfax County, and the elder Mr. Shrivastava had an exceptional career as a businessman in Northern Virginia, employing hundreds of people, becoming a community leader, and even teaching computer science as an adjunct professor at Mason.
When their father passed away a few years ago, family members established the Shrivastava GovCon Scholarship Endowment in his honor. Summing up his father’s life, Shrivastava said, “An immigrant who valued education. Scholarships that allowed an individual who grew up significantly below the poverty line to earn a bachelors and two masters degrees. A teacher, a successful entrepreneur and major regional employer, and a philanthropist.”
Having followed his father’s example by serving Mason in several volunteer leadership roles, Sumeet Shrivastava is now president-elect of the George Mason University Alumni Association, as well as a Mason parent. In 2016 his generous investment helped launch the Government Contracting initiative in the School of Business.
“Our family gives money and time to support students because in the end, despite all [our father’s] successes, the example he set for us and the values he instilled in us were that success is not measured by the accumulation of wealth, but by our impact on others’ lives.”
That message was amplified by Cordelia Cranshaw, BSW ’14, who received the John J. Hughes Social Work Scholarship during her time as a Mason undergraduate. Cranshaw, a social worker and counselor at Washington, D.C.’s Child and Family Services Agency, founded the nonprofit organization Acts of Random Kindness (ARK), which serves youths and families in D.C.’s Ward 8.
Cranshaw’s remarkable story includes her own journey to overcome periods of homelessness and family separation during her youth.
“The children that we work with [through ARK] struggle every day with behavioral and academic challenges. And having been where they are, I know how they’re feeling, struggling in school or at home,” she said. “Because someone believed in my dreams, I am now able to help these children who are facing similar life challenges. This is how far your scholarship dollars reach. You invest in students like me, and we do our best to pay it forward.”
A video presentation revealed another side of Cranshaw’s accomplishments: in December she was crowned Miss District of Columbia USA, and on May 2 she will compete in the Miss USA competition.
“My journey to becoming Miss District of Columbia USA has given me opportunities to share my story and inspire others to do amazing things in the world,” Cranshaw said. “Sometimes a person just needs a helping hand to get the opportunity to achieve their dreams and turn them into reality. Your investment in scholarships changes lives and opens doors.”
“I cannot express enough how much Mason has laid the foundation to my success. Thank you for the opportunity to earn my degree, the opportunity to give back and help children who are at risk and facing life challenges,” she concluded, thanking scholarship donor Mary Kennedy, the daughter of John J. Hughes, for endowing the Hughes scholarship.
Held at Westwood Country Club in Vienna, Va., the Celebration of Scholarships was emceed by Trishana Bowden, Mason’s new vice president for advancement and alumni relations, herself a scholarship recipient as an undergraduate at Towson University. As the evening concluded, Mason President Ángel Cabrera noted that in 2018, an impressive total of 2,215 Mason students received donor-funded scholarship support.
“Let’s continue to lock arms, to come together as a community, to reaffirm with one another our desire to invest in people,” Cabrera said. “When we get it right, when we invest in people like Cordelia and the other students here, it is the greatest thing we can do together.”
April 2, 2019 / Rob Riordan