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Liggett senior named QuestBridge Scholar

Mostafa Shanta. Photo courtesy of Ron Bernas

January 02, 2014
Before Mostafa Shanta ever had a chance to fully digest the e-mail, his parents had already phoned nearly everyone they knew, family and otherwise, delivering the exciting news.

Shanta, a senior at University Liggett School, had just learned of his acceptance as a QuestBridge Scholar and receipt of a full-ride scholarship to Yale University.

"I was telling my parents, who were in shock as well, and the next thing you know, they're calling everyone that they possibly can as I'm just sort of writing up e-mails to thank all the teachers that wrote (letters of recommendation) and everything like that," said Shanta, whose family emigrated from Bangladesh when he was 2 years old. "I've just only sent out three e-mails; my parents have called the whole globe. It was quite exciting."

Mostafa Shanta. Photo courtesy of Ron Bernas
QuestBridge is a non-profit organization that connects low-income students with educational and scholarship opportunities from 35 of the top-ranked colleges and universities in the country, of which applicants choose their top eight.

This year, nearly 13,000 students applied, with less than 5,000 named as finalists. Only a few hundred were matched with a college or university of their choice. Yale was Shanta's second choice, Princeton University his first.

"Part of the reason I liked Questbridge is because, they ask for all these essays about yourself, all these deep, what do you think? what do you want to do?" Shanta said, adding that his time at Liggett, to which he transferred as an eighth grader, helped shape his character and work ethic. "Before Liggett I don't think I could've answered those (QuestBridge questions) as easily."

At Liggett, Shanta participated in the quiz bowl and debate teams, as well as the Interfaith Club and robotics team. He's also a Merit Scholar.

"Those of us who work with Mostafa fully expect that he will become a scholar of the highest order," said Elizabeth Jamett, director of College Guidance. "There is no question that he has the talent and instinct to contribute to scholarly dialogue in the most meaningful way."

Shanta is the third Liggett student in four years to receive the scholarship. Aaron Robertston (Princeton) was a QuestBridge Scholar last year and Janaya Gripper earned the scholarship in 2009. She attended the University of Chicago.

"A lot of it is still, I can't sort of comprehend that I'm going to be at Yale next year," Shanta said. "Going through this process, it was a hopeful outlook ! it was a shot in the dark for me; I thought it'd be nice if it worked. It did, and I'm still getting over that, the fact that it worked out in the end."

While at Yale, Shanta plans to pursue a degree in international studies, a topic he's been interested in ever since his family moved to Hamtramck from Bangladesh.

"I grew up in Hamtramck, where there's also a lot of Polish, Eastern European, Arabs and Yemeni people sort of gathering there," Shanta said. "I viewed all these interactions and I was like, What does this look like from a national sort of groundwork? That got me interested with the whole study of it."

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