Over twenty years ago, Shahri Estakhry received feedback from family members applying for college that there were no academic scholarships given by a group of Iranians in support of Iranian-American students pursuing university studies. Shahri spoke with friends in San Diego, California about the importance of providing support to students in their academic endeavors and this small group of philanthropic-minded individuals, led by Shahri, came together to establish scholarships for students of Iranian heritage.
Therefore, in 1997, discussions were initiated with the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) to establish the first scholarship at the University for students of Iranian heritage. In just a short time, a “Mother Fund” was established at UCSD and a Board of Trustees was formed for the Iranian-American Scholarship Fund (IASF). The Board of Trustees embarked on fundraising efforts in the Iranian-American community of San Diego and awarded five scholarships at UCSD for the 1998-99 academic year to students of Iranian ancestry.
With the passage of California Proposition 209 in November 2001, UCSD was no longer able to grant scholarships based on race, ethnicity, or national origin. In order to continue providing scholarships to students of Iranian heritage, in December 2001 funds were transferred from UCSD to the Persian Cultural Center – a San Diego based non-profit organization. Administration and supervision of this trust account remained with the IASF Board of Trustees.
In 2005, the Iranian-American Scholarship Fund became an independent 501(c)(3) non-political, non-religious, non-profit organization administered by a volunteer Board of Directors.
When the funds were transferred from UCSD, eligibility for IASF scholarships was no longer limited to students attending UCSD. Scholarship opportunities were expanded to include students attending all schools in the San Diego region. With the 2005-06 academic year, eligibility was broadened to include applicants attending schools in Southern California. In 2006-07, eligibility was further expanded to applicants attending schools in California and in 2008-09 students attending accredited institutions across the country could apply for an IASF scholarship.
Since its establishment in 1997, the IASF has gained recognition amongst donors and applicants. Hundreds of applications are reviewed and tens of thousands of dollars are awarded to undergraduate and graduate students annually. To date, IASF has awarded 296 scholarships, a special scholarship to a PhD candidate, and six writing awards – in collaboration with Unique Zan Foundation – to young women of Iranian heritage.
The IASF is extremely proud and enthusiastic of the support received from the community throughout the nation for this important cause. It is our hope that individuals, organizations/companies, and former scholarship applicants/recipients will join in this important endeavor to provide students of Iranian heritage with financial assistance and a sense of community for years to come. Donations are tax-deductible in accordance with the law.