Congratulations to this year’s Herren Project high school scholarship winners! These winners exemplified Herren Project’s mission through leadership in their communities, finding ways to bring awareness disease of addiction and model why it’s important to focus on overall wellness to prevent substance misuse. We received a historic number of submissions from across the country by many well deserving applicants. It’s awe inspiring to see so many students committed to making an impact in their communities!

Iris Ghorbani

“Beyond the classroom, Iris has an incredible passion for social justice and positive social change. She is one of the most engaged and effective students I have seen in the fight for equity. Beyond attending marches, Iris leads and participates in a number of organizations to promote equity. She spearheaded inclusion initiatives for our National Honor Society. She is the co-president of the school’s Gender-Sexuality Alliance. Iris also recently completed her training to be an EMT – a grueling academic and training program on top of a challenging course load and a ton of meaningful extracurricular activities. I am so impressed by her drive and dedication to the cause.” – Justine Lassar, Teacher

Iris Ghorbani

From: Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in Bethesda, MD
SCHOLARSHIP AWARD: $1,000


Essay Submission:

My journey exemplifying Herren Project’s ideals reawakens after twelve words, often at the crack of dawn.

“Bethesda-Chevy Chase Rescue Squad, what is the location of your emergency?”

Serving thousands of homes in Maryland, there is hardly a patient who dials 911 with a spotless home arranged for our arrival- EMTs are the quintessential unexpected guest. From extrication out of multi-story buildings to locate alternative ways to splint a dislocation, the mind of a seasoned EMT masters the science of thinking outside of the box to ensure both provider and patient arrive at the hospital safely. The quick-thinking I’ve gained as an EMT is crucial in strengthening my expertise as a patient advocate in contexts of drug abuse, a role where skills such as conflict de-escalation and cooperation are key.

Between epinephrine, glucose, and more- the administration of naloxone is just one of the ways I have learned to support drug-affected members of my community. “Narcan” is one of the most astounding drugs in my book- a quick spray revives a patient from a state of incapacitation to consciousness. Being dispatched to an “injured person” call can mean anything from a car accident to a drug overdose, but the skills I have learned in EMT academy have prepared me for the stressful alcohol-related calls at 4 AM- and armed me with the skills to help calm down those in drug-involved panic. As a volunteer EMT, I align with the Herren Project’s value for free support for those who need it most, and recognize the importance of quick dispatch and support in the context of preventing the misuse of drugs and alcohol.

Past my experiences as an EMT, my principal community interest involves advocating for mental health support for all. From founding and leading my school’s community-support alliance to managing a pen-pal program for quarantined youth, I have learned of my potential as a role model for many of the at-risk communities I work with. Mental health support is itself a form of addiction prevention, as too many people within my community turn to drugs due to no better option. In tandem with the Herren Project’s legacy, learning how to advocate for the mental and physical health of my community is something I plan to dedicate my life to, and my experiences as a peer leader at my school’s mental health awareness club and working with the Signs of Suicide (SOS) organization has armed me with a firm platform for success.

Using my extensive experiences in service, I will have the opportunity to continue strengthening my impact throughout my undergraduate experience and continue creating spaces for struggling individuals who do not have the resources to defend their fight through drug abuse. The tuition costs of Columbia University/Trinity College are daunting, but I want to do everything in my power to save up for this college experience as I am certain that a degree at such an institution will give me an unparalleled foothold in a world where I can make a difference in public safety. The support of a scholarship in recognition of a program focusing on such an intersectional cause would be a privilege to potentially kick-start my undergraduate journey, and I plan to dedicate my life to honoring the Herren Project’s legacy of supporting communities through sensible action.

Armina Parvaresh Rizi

“Throughout her high school career, Armina has taken the lead on programs, designed public service announcements, involved community members in awareness programs while honoring victims and their families that have been impacted by impaired driving. Armina’s work during the pandemic was paramount, as she not only organized and designed a mental health PSA, but also executed its delivery to our community beyond out expectations. ” – Pamela Shayer, Lincoln Prevention Coalition

Armina Parvaresh Rizi

From: Lincoln High School in Lincoln, RI
SCHOLARSHIP AWARD: $1,000


Essay Submission:

“Armina, look! He has a pen in his mouth.”
Why does it matter that he has a pen in his mouth? Just let me focus. But, what my new-student self didn’t know was that it wasn’t just a pen. Having recently moved to the United States, I was not at all familiar with e-cigarettes.

As the days went by, the smell of the smoke became more and more noticeable. I would walk into the school and the unpleasant smell would go right through my nostrils to make me feel nauseous. This feeling sparked a light in my head: why were students smoking at such a young age? Was it mental health? Was it family problems? What was it? That’s when I knew that I had to dive deeper into this issue and be the change.

I became the vice president of Lincoln’s Above the Influence club (now, a Herren Project Club as well) during my freshman year of high school and contributed to the club’s mission to keep students away from abusing substances and help others improve their mental health. I became the president of the Above the Influence club and helped to promote and expand the club throughout my high school. Later, this led me to join the Herren Project as a national youth ambassador and youth publicity/membership chair.

Within the purple and green colors of this organization, I have been able to find my true colors and understand how I want to contribute to my community. I have become a youth advocate and have been able to help others in my community to live a healthier life, in sobriety and with full awareness of the impacts that drugs can have on them.

Working on multiple projects with my district’s health and wellness committee in addition to volunteering with the Blackstone Valley Prevention Coalition has also helped me to expand my knowledge with regard to substance abuse prevention and advocacy. Recently, I also testified for funding prevention programs in Rhode Island at the Rhode Island State House; this helped me to gain an understanding of what it means to be an advocate for a significant topic that
could mark a border between life and death for many people.

Spreading awareness about substance abuse has also helped me develop an understanding of how different races, genders, and people with mental health issues are differently affected by these substances. This has led me to find my passion in advocating for mental health, sobriety, gender equality, and racial equality. I hope to contribute my time to spreading awareness about sensitive topics that are significant in the modern day to help my generation live a happier and healthier life.

Layla Donahue

“Born to a teen mom who battled drug addiction, Layla spent time in the system; foster care, supervised visits, social workers, and the Department of Children and Families were her reality as a toddler and young girl. To watch Layla’s growth in school after learning of her early history was, without a doubt, one of the more personal and special experiences for me in my career.” – Kelly Rezendes, Vice Principal

Layla Donahue

From: Bishop Connolly High School in Fall River, MA
INSPIRE AWARD: $500


Essay Submission:

Most people judge those who struggle with substance use disorder. Addiction has impacted my life in many different areas. I was raised by my mother who has been clean for more than half my life. My mother became a person in recovery after I went into DCF custody. I grew up
attending 12 step fellowships with her. My father remained in active addiction for many years. I have been able to see the negative effects of addiction and the miracles that recovery has to offer. My mother not only attends 12 step fellowship but she has been an active part in the recovery community. She has been of service to many of those who are seeking recovery. I’ve had many opportunities to be of service within the recovery community. I have volunteered at recovery day hosted by Stepping Stone inc. as well as 12 step fellowship events. The feeling I get when I’m being of service is indescribable. Because of these opportunities I’ve found passion in helping those who suffer from substance use disorder and mental health. I want to be able to help those seeking a better way of life. Being granted this scholarship will give me the opportunity to help make a difference in the lives of those seeking recovery. I believe in the recovery community because I know recovery is possible and anyone who is seeking recovery can obtain it.

Urvi Sehgal

“In both the SADD & Herren Project Club, Urvi quickly became a leader and even held a leadership role in the Herren Project club for the past two school years. Urvi has been involved in many of the club’s initiatives and even has come up with many ideas for these initiatives. Urvi has also served on the Herren Project’s Student Board for the last two years, something that I am extremely proud of her for doing!” – Melanie Jozokos, Advisor

Urvi Sehgal

From: Westford Academy in Westford, MA
INSPIRE AWARD: $500


Essay Submission:

As a child, I knew I didn’t fit in, but it started to become more apparent when I was always the last one to be picked in groups during gym class and never had anyone to talk to during lunch. This didn’t stop at school but continued at home when people commented, “Urvi has gained a lot of weight.” All these eyes watching my every move sparked my biggest insecurity, my weight. The normative standards of the perfect body shape became ingrained in my mind. It became a daily habit of mine to stare in the mirror and look at myself with disgust.

In hopes of feeling better about myself, I decided to join the cross country team. As the numbers on the scale decreased, my insecurity continued to grow, drowning any scraps of my confidence. I became consumed with my insecurity as I continued to compare myself with my other classmates. It had become so bad that I despised everything about myself. My low self-esteem began in elementary school and continued through the beginning of high school.

Admittedly, it was hard to break one of my worst habits. But when I the moment those chains broke was the first time I attended a Herren Project meeting or at the time “Project Purple”. Herren Project fosters a safe and empowering environment where I began recognizing my positive qualities. The advisors and the students accepted each other for who they are and it was the first time where I felt belong.

I began to implement listening to mental health podcasts into my daily schedule. Helping me able to find who I am and how to love myself. Additionally I started telling myself daily affirmations and committed to surrounding myself with a strong support system like the people who are involved in Herren Project.

As I continued to grow and discover who I am, my confidence continued to grow with me to the point where I influenced other young adults who are dealing with the same struggles I was. I wanted to become a role model for others and inspire them to take care of their mental health and self-worth. That is when I decided not only to become the Vice President of my local Herren Porject club, but also the Vice President of the Herren Project Youth Ambassadors. I am committed to making a change in my generation and want others to understand they are not alone in their journey of self-love on a nationwide level.

Instead of erasing myself to match an unattainable ideal, I am actively learning to deconstruct my perception of perfection when it comes to body image. My discovery of self-love through immersing myself in the Herren Project community has allowed me to be comfortable with change and opened my eyes to my self-worth.