Online News Day or Knight - Official news site of North Penn High School - 1340 Valley Forge Rd. Lansdale, PA

The Knight Crier

Online News Day or Knight - Official news site of North Penn High School - 1340 Valley Forge Rd. Lansdale, PA

The Knight Crier

Online News Day or Knight - Official news site of North Penn High School - 1340 Valley Forge Rd. Lansdale, PA

The Knight Crier

Traveling 304 miles on a free ride

Kate Miller
Senior, Farhana Meme poses in her Advanced Biology classroom.

“Bzzz.” The phone rattles against the table as a notification makes its way down from the top of the screen. Immediately woken by the chime of the message, Farhana Meme’s eyes quickly dart to the screen; it’s here, the one email that would change her life forever.

North Penn senior, Farhana Meme, is one of just 12 incoming freshmen who will attend the University of Pittsburgh to receive a full scholarship for their nursing program, granted by UPMC scholars. The scholarship provides her with the opportunity to attend the University of Pittsburgh for four years tuition free, and guarantees her employment for three years post-graduation.

“The first two years is an actual scholarship and the last two years is a loan to the hospital, which is completely forgiven after you work there for three years post-graduation,” Meme shared.

Meme’s love for all things health care started at the young age of 13 at Penndale Middle School when she first enrolled in the Health Sciences program at the North Montco Technical Career Center. 

“I knew I’ve wanted to go into health care for a really long time. The human body has always been something that’s really interested me and it’s honestly the one thing I can always stay awake in class for,” Meme explained. “I’ve always been interested in science classes, so I took honors biology and chemistry and I fairly enjoyed both of them. I’m taking advanced biology right now and honestly I really enjoy what I’m learning in that class. It’s pretty interesting compared to my other subjects.”

Meme’s interest in the UPMC scholars program started many months ago, when she first began applying to colleges.

“In terms of looking for a college, I had no idea what I was looking for. I honestly just googled the best nursing programs in the country. I knew I wanted to stay in-state because I wanted to be close to my family, so Pittsburgh immediately caught my eye,” Meme stated.

I was lucky enough to get to visit the school this summer with a friend and the second I saw the campus I fell in love,”

— Senior, Farhana Meme

Although Meme has always had a special place in her heart for the University of Pittsburgh, that didn’t make the application process any easier.

“So when going into the college application season, it was hard. As a kid you dream of going to these big, prestigious colleges but then you go into high school and realize you need to be realistic and set expectations for yourself,” Meme explained. “I applied to Pitt, Temple, Drexel, and Boston College, but Pitt was my target; it was perfect for me. After I visited the school there wasn’t a doubt in my mind, I knew this was where I wanted to go.”

The University of Pittsburgh was Meme’s dream school, but for a long time she truly saw it as nothing more than a dream.

“When I originally applied I didn’t even know if I would get in because it was such a highly ranked school. I actually was originally going to apply as a Biology major because I didn’t think I would get in for nursing, and I accidentally submitted my application as a nursing major. I had this initial moment of shock where I thought ‘Wow, I’m not going to get in anymore’ but thankfully I got in,” Meme said. 

The University of Pittsburgh’s nursing program is highly selective, but also incredibly welcoming.

“Once I got in, a lot of nursing students reached out to me and I even got a handwritten postcard in the mail. I realized that the University of Pittsburgh really cares about their students and the whole program is just really personalized,” Meme shared.

After receiving her acceptance letter, Meme was on cloud nine, but little did she know this was just the start of the life changing journey she would soon experience.

“UPMC, which stands for the University of Pittsburgh Medical Campus, is a major health organization is Western PA and they’re very highly connected with the University of Pittsburgh. This program essentially gives money to the University of Pittsburgh and they help students afford college through their time at the school,” Meme explained.

Meme had been notified that she was just one of few nursing students to be offered an opportunity to interview for a scholarship, provided by the UMPC program, that would rid her of tuition for the four years she attended the University of Pittsburgh.

“I just got an email saying I was selected for a twenty minute interview,” Meme said.

I was so nervous, this was the first time I had ever done a professional interview for anything like this,”

— Farhana Meme

The interview was held virtually, but nonetheless in a very professional style. Meme prepared for the interview the best she could, but inside the nerves were eating her alive, the only thing left was to be herself.

“They were simple questions, asking why I wanted to become a nursing major and some of the challenges I had faced in my life, so I just tried to answer them openly and honestly,” Meme shared. “After that, I got another email saying that I was selected as a semi-finalist. They picked about 30 kids, I think, and then those kids went out to the University of Pittsburgh for a luncheon.”

The day of, surrounded by some of the most impressive students Meme had ever come across, she was presented with the opportunity to show the administration at the University of Pittsburgh just how well she would fit in.

“We learned a lot about the logistics of the program, talked to people from human resources, and actually got to do some clinical stuff like practice CPR and EKGs,” Meme said.

Although in the end every moment was worth it, nothing felt more frustrating and nerve wracking for Meme than the weeks on end she would wait to hear if she had advanced to the next interview.

“Waiting was god-awful. I had basically put all my eggs in this basket because I knew I wanted to go to Pitt, but if I didn’t get this scholarship I didn’t think I would’ve been able to go,” Meme shared. “I was honestly just stressing the whole time. My parents were very happy that I got this opportunity in the first place, but I felt this pressure weighing on me the whole time.”

Thoughts filled Meme’s head, as she feared she would never hear back. Every email became an important one, because she never knew if it would finally be the one that determined her future.

“When I first found out, I broke into tears. It was funny, I had just woken up from a nap and I looked at my phone and saw that email and I ran downstairs and just looked for the first family member I could find. No one was home, but I ended up calling my sister and we were both just crying. When my mom got home she was crying too, it was just a really emotional experience,” Meme explained. “The whole time I was doubting myself, so when I found out I could actually do it, I felt like I was on top of the world for a second.”

Meme attributed many others to aiding in her success, but one of her biggest supporters was her sister.

“My sister was one of the biggest reasons why I felt like I got this scholarship. She was there with me when I went to Pitt and the representative we were talking with from human resources clicked with her immediately. My sister really advocated for me to get this scholarship, she was the person who spoke out for me when I felt like I couldn’t,” Meme admitted. “There isn’t a single thing that my sister, or any of the women in my family wouldn’t do for me. My grandmother was a big woman in my family who did that for me”

Not only was Meme’s grandmother one of her greatest supporters, but actually the sole reason she pursued a career in nursing. Meme’s grandmother had unfortunately passed away due to illness in March 2023, falling exactly on the date one year before Meme’s final interview.

“My grandmother was in end-stage renal failure, which is why she passed. Watching her be sick for the longest time hurt, as her granddaughter, and through that I had to learn how to deal with that, but she taught me a lot of lessons. I wrote my entire college essay on her and how she taught me how to be very gentle and kind to people. I feel like she’s been really watching over me and guiding me throughout this whole process,” Meme explained. “The day of the interview was the one year anniversary of the day my grandmother passed away. It really felt like she was there to watch over me.”

Aside from her family, Meme had many other support systems cheering her on throughout the entire interview process. Two of Meme’s biggest supporters were teachers she had previously at North Penn High School.

“I had no idea what to do when preparing for the interview. I went to some of the teachers I trusted like Mrs. Atkiss and Mr. Mostert and they sat down and essentially guided me through how I wanted to approach this interview, which I was very grateful for,” Meme explained.

Meme and North Penn Spanish teacher, Brittany Atkiss, have a connection that’s rare to achieve in a classroom. Meme has shared many times that Atkiss is one of her biggest role models, but to her surprise, Meme has also inspired Atkiss quite a bit.

“I feel like it’s cliche to say it, but Meme’s the type of person that lights up a room when she walks in, the most beautiful smile, and the kindest heart. She is incredibly humble and even when she’s having a rough day, she’s just very good at being a real person,” Atkiss remarked.

She’s just such a positive person. When I go to her job to have parties for my children, I always tell people to request a Meme; she’s just such a happy, smart, and kind person,”

— Farhana Meme

Wearing many hats, as both a teacher and a mother, Atkiss is no stranger to remarkable children. Atkiss’s admiration for Meme’s compassion and work ethic is one she only hopes to see in her daughters as they grow older.

“Honestly, I have two girls myself, I would love nothing more than if they turned out like Meme,” Arkiss shared.

Despite the fact that going tuition free is a dream, Meme had a dozen reasons for choosing the University of Pittsburgh as her final choice.

“Going tuition free is obviously a huge benefit of going to the University of Pittsburgh, but when I went to the campus and spoke to the students and they told me about some of the amazing opportunities the school offers, I was sold,” Meme said. “The opportunities Pitt offers to students really made me realize that this school is perfect. You have the opportunity to grow as a person, get the experience you need, and become the best possible nurse you can be.”

Another large part of the college experience is networking and socializing. Being in the heart of Oakland, Meme will soon be presented with so many opportunities to meet new faces and further her career.

“You’re meeting completely new people from different parts of the state and different parts of the country and you really are gaining that experience as a person. Especially being in the city, it offers a lot of opportunities,” Meme shared. “The idea of being independent and living alone in the city is a little scary, but I think once I get there and adjust it will be the experience of a lifetime.”

As exciting as the college experience is, many students do not think about where they will be headed afterwards, luckily for Meme, she has guaranteed employment with the UPMC.

“I can work in any of the hospitals in Pittsburgh for UPMC: UPMC Shadyside, the women’s hospital, and the children’s hospital. In terms of what I want to do after college, right now I’m leaning towards pediatrics or labor and delivery or neonatal, anywhere that I can work with children or mothers. I might get into school and start clinicals and realize I want to do something else, so I’m really open to anything,” Meme explained. “One day I hope to go back to school to get my masters and become a nurse practitioner after a few years. I’m not sure how long I’ll stay in Pittsburgh, but ideally I’d like to come back to Philadelphia and work at CHOP.”

Meme was born in Bangladesh and moved to the United States with her family at just a few months old. Adjusting to a new country as a foreign family was hard for Meme and her relatives. Throughout the entire college application process, Meme worried about the impact this large financial decision would have on her family.

“I’m a first generation immigrant and my parents moved here from Bangladesh, so they don’t even have a college degree. The idea of affording college felt like this massive burden in the back of my head, so when I got this opportunity it felt like a chance for me that I could finally be part of this culture of going to college that I didn’t think i was going to be able to take part in,” Meme said. “I know a lot of people in the community I grew up with went to inner city schools that didn’t have much of an appeal to me, so the fact I’ll be able to go to Pitt is surreal.”

Not only did North Penn grant her an incredible education, but it gave her friendships and relationships that will last Meme a lifetime.

“As much as I don’t always love being in a small town, I’ll miss being able to know everyone. From what I know, all my friends are going to different schools so the idea of not being close to them anymore is a crazy thought to me. Being so far from my family, that change in lifestyle, will probably be really hard for me,” Meme said. “North Penn has made me the person I am today.”

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