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Marina Ngalula at the University of New Hampshire in Manchester. (Photo by Cheryl Senter.)

Marina Ngalula at the University of New Hampshire in Manchester. (Photo by Cheryl Senter.)

Students who are transforming the world

Marina Ngalula is on the cusp of realizing her childhood dream of becoming an engineer — so she can build useful things that improve people's lives.

This is the story about a child in the Democratic Republic of Congo who wanted to be an engineer. She dreamed of building things — useful things that would improve people’s lives. But engineering, Marina Ngalula was told, was for boys. When she grew, and enrolled at the University of Kinshasa, she studied business and computer science.

Then, like so many people displaced by violent conflict, Marina fled DRC and came to America. She spoke no English, but enrolled in a class for English language learners — and she learned fast.

Marina got a job at a nonprofit, caring for children with disabilities. And she enrolled in college — this time in an advanced manufacturing program at Manchester Community College, all of the credits from which would transfer toward an engineering degree at the University of New Hampshire.

Because she was an asylum-seeker, she did not qualify for any federal aid. Her previous university credits did not transfer.

Marina is 29 now, and she is a Mechanical Engineering major at UNH in Manchester. She carries a full course load and works 12-hour night shifts every Friday through Sunday as a team leader at a manufacturing company that produces laboratory equipment.

Foundation scholarships are helping her fulfill her childhood dream of becoming an engineer. In 2021, the Foundation awarded $7.4 million in scholarships to more than 1,700 students, helping many keep their studies on track despite the pandemic.

In May, Marina will take her degree in hand and set out to build those useful things she dreamed of building as a girl.

“I always feel like engineers transform the world,” Marina said. “I want to be part of that.”

Note: this story originally appeared in the Foundation’s 2020 annual report, but scholarship data has been updated to reflect 2021 numbers.