PAINTSVILLE – Parisa Shamaei-Zadeh isn’t shy about her heritage.
You see, the 17-year-old Paintsville High School senior and member of the Johnson County/Paintsville Early College Academy at Big Sandy Community and Technical College (BSCTC) is, as she says, half Iranian and half Appalachian.
“Those are two cultures that don’t truly appreciate each other,” said Shamaei-Zadeh. “I’m hoping to change that.”
That was the basis of Shamaei-Zadeh’s essay that landed her the William C. Parker Diversity Scholarship ($42,000) at the University of Kentucky.
“I’m excited to receive this scholarship because it allows me to further my education while working towards a greater understanding of my cultures,” said Shamaei-Zadeh, whose father, Dr. Ali Shamaei-Zadeh, is from Iran and mother, Patricia Nelson, a native of Lawrence County. “Diversity is a beautiful thing, and I found that the people who represent my cultures have wonderful things to contribute.”
Parisa, who is also a member of the Paintsville High School cheerleading squad, hopes to have a career that contributes to those aspiring for something better. She hopes to become a physician and work in underserved areas abroad.
“I have a passion for people and I want to make a difference,” said Parisa.
Dr. Fallon Watson, an associate professor communications at BSCTC, said students like Parisa promote the value of diversity and understanding other cultures.
“She’s a joy, and I think she shares the same values as all of us – to make a difference and contribute to leave the Earth better than when we inherited it,” said Dr. Watson.
Dr. Watson is a co-advisor for the Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) honors society at BSCTC. Shamaei-Zadeh is a member and has been involved in various community service projects.
“I think we all know we can do better and it’s up to us to be the change we want to see,” Parisa said.
What does the future hold?
“I’m already on an exciting journey, and I’ll turn another page in a few months and move on to a new and exciting adventure,” she said.
Parisa will graduate high school in May with a diploma and an Associate in Science degree from BSCTC.