2023 Scholarship & Grant Recipients

Albana Hykaj-Idrizi
The Albanian American Educators Association (AAEA) is thrilled to announce Albana Hykaj-Idrizi as the winner of our prestigious Class Project Educators Grant. With her extraordinary project focused on the United Nations experience for children, Albana has demonstrated exceptional commitment to enriching student learning and broadening their horizons.

Albana's project, designed to take students on an educational trip to the United Nations, stands out for its innovative approach to teaching global citizenship. This unique venture aims to provide children with a real-world understanding of the UN and its pivotal role in addressing global issues. By making such a complex institution accessible and engaging for young learners, Albana is fostering a deep sense of connection and responsibility towards global affairs.

The AAEA, dedicated to promoting education and lifelong learning, finds Albana's project to be a perfect embodiment of these values. The focus on the UN's initiatives and its critical role in global matters is crucial in empowering our young learners to become informed, compassionate global citizens. This project not only promotes critical thinking but also encourages an active engagement in discussing and devising solutions for global challenges.

We extend our heartfelt congratulations to Albana Hykaj-Idrizi for this well-deserved recognition. Her project is a testament to the transformative power of education in inspiring positive change and empowering young minds.

Leonora Hutaj

AAEA is proud to present this year's Skanderbeg Essay contest winner!

The judges were highly impressed by the insightful and eloquently written essay titled, "The Warrior King Skanderbeg," penned by Leonora Hutaj. Her work stood out for its vivid portrayal of Skanderbeg's "valor" and his enduring impact as a beacon of strength and hope for Albanians and people worldwide. Additionally, her skillful incorporation of quotes throughout her piece added a layer of creative depth and engagement.

We extend our warmest congratulations to Leonora, the well-deserved winner of the Skanderbeg Essay Contest, and express our sincere gratitude to all the participants.  Leonora’s passion for writing and dedication to this inspiring theme were truly commendable.

AAEA is proud to announce this year's top three High School awards for best written essay.

Victoria LaBella

AAEA is happy to present Victoria LaBella with this year’s AAEA 2023 Scholarship award.   Her English teacher shares that she is the “hardest working student she has ever met”. She has been described as creative, clever, adaptable, smart and thoughtful.  Creative writing is Victoria’s passion and she writes with whimsical emotion.  She has been involved in her High School community during her four year stay where she participated in drama club, worked with younger students tutoring and mentoring and helped in fund raising activities. She is described as a strong person who has shown resilience in the face of adversity who an inspiration to others .  She is graduating at the top of her class, and  plans to pursue a career in the medical industry helping others. 

"Nurturing Resilience" is a captivating and thought-provoking essay by Victoria LaBella, the top winner of this year's AAEA scholarship fund for the best essay written. Victoria beautifully articulates the profound impact of her Albanian heritage on her character and aspirations. Drawing inspiration from her mother's journey as a war refugee, Victoria recognizes the indomitable spirit and unwavering determination that define her Albanian identity. Her mother's resilience in the face of adversity has instilled in Victoria a belief that no obstacle is insurmountable. Growing up in a household that cherishes tradition, Victoria internalized important values such as respect, kindness, and empathy, which have guided her interactions and fostered harmonious relationships. Witnessing her mother's unwavering loyalty, even amidst challenging circumstances, has inspired Victoria to emulate the same steadfast commitment in her own life. These invaluable  lessons have shaped her aspirations and propelled her forward, driving her resolute determination to excel academically and professionally. Victoria's unwavering drive to create a better future for her family while pursuing her passion for biomedical science and radiology reflects the strength and resilience ingrained in her Albanian heritage. Her essay stands as a testament to the transformative power of embracing one's cultural identity and overcoming obstacles to achieve personal and professional success.

Franceska Drejaj 

AAEA is happy to present Franceska Drejaj with this year’s  Alexander Delic Memorial Scholarship. Franceska is described by her teachers as “a student of great success, passion, drive and intelligence.” She is a top Italian language student who is involved in many extra curricular clubs and societies.  She is in the top ten of her graduating  class who has a love for culture.  Franceska’s has an interesting family background, her mom is Korean and was adopted into a proud Italian family. Her dad was born and raised in Albania . Thanks to her parents she has been raised to embrace diversity and appreciates her heritage. She is grateful to her parents for the sacrifices that were made in order for her to have a life and future designed for greatness.   Franceska’s teachers state that she impresses her teachers and peers with her “glow of presentational  skills' ' for she is delightful and  is pleasant and kind to all she meets.  She is always ready to help others in need and makes sure that all her classmates’ voices aer herald while remaining humble. Not only does she excel academically but her creative abilities include her love for singing. 

"My Last Name" is an award-winning essay by Franceska Drejaj, the second winner of the AAEA Scholarship fund for the best essay written. In this captivating piece, Franceska delves into the profound significance of her last name and the journey it represents. Throughout the essay, she candidly reflects on her apprehension towards award ceremonies, particularly due to the recurrent mispronunciations of her name. However, she undergoes a transformative realization as she embraces the mispronunciations as an integral part of her unique story, understanding that her last name has become her distinct identity. As a first-generation American with Albanian and Korean heritage, Franceska 

cherishes her last name as a symbol of her family's history and the sacrifices they made. It serves as a constant reminder of her father's arduous journey from Albania to America and the challenges he overcame. By honoring her last name, Franceska honors her father's struggles and finds the motivation to pursue her dreams and embrace her cultural heritage with pride. Her remarkable essay not only highlights the power of a name but also exemplifies the resilience and determination that propel individuals towards personal and academic success.

Blendor Thaqi 

This year our scholarship essay readers were very impressed with Blender's essay and decided to present him with the Gabriela Prereyra Memorial Scholarship Award.

He is described by his teachers as “an exceptional young man with excellent grades resulting from diligent work habits.” His high class ranking due to his ability to challenge himself with honors courses and extra credit work.  Blendor is very well liked and respected by both his teachers and his peers. 

"The Journey of Heritage" is an exceptional essay by Blendor Thaqi, the third-place winner of the AAEA Scholarship fund for the best essay written. Blendor reflects on the profound influence his parents have had on shaping his life. Raised by hard working parents who persevered through the hardships of war and embraced their Albanian identity, Blendor witnessed their resilience and unwavering determination. As immigrants to the United States, his parents faced numerous challenges, relying on their Albanian community for support. Despite the language and cultural barriers, they worked tirelessly to create a better future for themselves and their family. Blendor's upbringing was deeply rooted in Albanian culture, and he quickly realized the sacrifices his parents made for him. Motivated by their experiences, he began excelling academically, receiving recognition and awards for his hard work. Guided by his parents' dreams and struggles, Blendor achieved remarkable academic success, graduating with honors and receiving scholarships from prestigious institutions such as Manhattan College, Pace University, and Fordham University. He plans to continue his educational journey, driven by his desire to provide his parents with a life free from worries and struggle. Blendor's powerful essay encapsulates the transformative power of heritage and the enduring impact of parental sacrifice on one's path to success.