A difficult and painful childhood culminated in the divorce of Anya Faruki’s parents when she was just five years old. A survivor of domestic abuse and violence, Anya sees that time as pivotal in setting her on a course to success.
Earlier this month, Anya was awarded the Loti Dunn Scholarship by the Scholarship Fund of Alexandria. The $24,000 scholarship, to be awarded over four years, enables Anya to fulfill a college dream that might not otherwise be possible. She plans to attend the University of Virginia.
When Anya’s parents divorced, she was in kindergarten at a small private school. The divorce forced a shift from private school into Alexandria City Public Schools — a shift for which Anya is eternally grateful.
I was thankful to have moved schools because I enjoyed public school a lot more. Public school is much more inclusive. You feel more confident about yourself and your future and who you want to be. I’ve loved my experience in ACPS. I have grown as a student, a musician, a friend and a supporter of others. My experience here has helped me to learn values and important life skills that have taken me along and helped pave my future,” said Anya.
Anya credits growing up in an all-female household with giving her a sense of empowerment and strength. She sees her mom and sister, with whom she bonded through womanhood, as inspiring role models who helped her learn from her experiences. She had the support of extended family, but sees her mom as her rock, having performed the roles of both mom and dad.
My mom is the strongest, most hardworking, most determined, most supportive person in my life. She has had to sacrifice so much for me to have opportunities that sometimes come easily to others,” said Anya.
Anya took what she learned from her childhood challenges and channeled it into her education. She attended MacArthur Elementary School followed by George Washington Middle School and hit her stride when she entered T.C. Williams and joined the choir. There she was able to fully embody her love of music, which grew out of a special relationship with a babysitter named Natalie, who died of a brain tumor at only 18 years old.
Natalie would always play the piano and sing. When she would sing, ‘The Girl from Ipanema,’ she inhabited the essence of what the song was about. The way she moved her body so fluidly and sang so sweetly really inspired me. I asked my mom for piano lessons and came to love it. Now I spend two to two-and-a-half hours a day playing the piano and singing,” Anya reminisced.
Anya says the number of doors that have been open to her through the choral and musical theater departments is innumerable, including the opportunity to sing before former President Barack Obama twice — at Christmas in Washington and the National Museum of African American History and Culture Opening. Performing on the same stage at an event where Earth, Wind and Fire also performed was a highlight of her high school music career. As president and student accompanist of the choir, she takes great pride in her craft and has learned valuable leadership skills and life lessons that will enable her to succeed in the future.
I can’t stress enough how much confidence I have gained as both a musician and a person as a result of my experience with the choir. Mr. Thorpe has shared a lot of his life experiences and he is always willing to stay after school with me if I ever have any problems at school or in life. He has filled the void of not having a male role model to look up to,“ Anya shared.
Anya’s own childhood struggles sparked a drive to help others who face adversity or are somehow disadvantaged. In the summer, she volunteers with a nonprofit called the DreamDog Foundation, which serves under-served communities and marginalized groups through organizations like Meals on Wheels, Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority, Martha’s Table, So Others May Eat, ALIVE, Hopkins House and the Carpenter’s Shelter. She enjoys bringing happiness and hopefulness to others. Through these experiences, she shares her story and helps others share theirs.
T.C. Williams fosters a community in which all ideas and identities are accepted. It enables students of different backgrounds to connect and engage with one other through student organizations,” said Anya.
Anya cites the immense number of student organizations and clubs available at T.C. as one of its greatest assets and values the opportunity to get involved. She is the president of the National English Honor Society and secretary of the National Math Honor Society where she tutors and works with students to improve their reading, writing and math skills.
In planning for her education at the University of Virginia next year, Anya is thinking of continuing her Chinese studies with a focus on global education. Human rights is another pathway she is considering — she is very passionate about creating a nonprofit for young women in developing countries who have endured domestic abuse and violence. There is no question that this young woman of many talents and interests, and who is filled with boundless energy, enthusiasm and gratitude, will have a positive impact whichever path she chooses. And while music feels too specialized and focused as a career, she does plan to continue to pursue music through a choral society, as part of ensembles or with a cappella groups.
To rising class of seniors and those who will follow, Anya offers this:
Cast a wide net when exploring college and career options. Be purposeful and passionate. When choosing colleges to apply to, have reasons why each institution you choose appeals to you. When writing your essays, be true to yourself. Map a timeline and be disciplined and focused. Be proactive in finding opportunities and things that you are passionate about, as those career interests will serve you well in the long run. T.C. offers such a wide array of resources to help you pursue your path. Take advantage of them!”