Stepney Green teenagers secure scholarships to top US universities

Umar Azad, front left and Catherine Lowe, right, have been awarded scholarships to top US universiti

Umar Azad, front left and Catherine Lowe, right, have been awarded scholarships to top US universities along with fellow NCS pupils Lennox Keeble and, Xuan Nguyen. Picture: Joe Newman - Credit: Joe Newman

Two Stepney Green teenagers have secured £250,000 scholarships to study at top American universities.

Catherine Lowe and Umar Azad are among four pupils from Newham Collegiate Sixth Form (NCS) in East Ham to be heading to Ivy League universities this autumn on fully-funded scholarships worth around £250,000 each over a four year period.

The sixth form runs a US university preparation programme which includes a paid tour of the Ivy League universities, mentoring advice and guidance for those looking to study overseas.

The group were supported to study for the SATs - aptitude tests required by the American educational system - at the same time as preparing for their A-level exams before they were cancelled as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Catherine, 18, hopes to study physics after receiving an unconditional offer to study at MIT.

She said: “My dad left school at 17 even though he was very bright so I guess I am helping to fulfil his potential as well as my own. He is very proud of me as you can imagine.

“I think the moment I started to believe this could happen was when we got the chance to travel to these universities. It seems like a dream but when you are there it gives you the belief you can make it.”

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Umar is set to take up a place at Harvard, where he will major in chemistry.

The 18-year-old, who lives with his mum and two siblings, said: “When I found out I had been accepted it was a real surreal moment. My mum had just come back from Bangladesh so she was self-isolating with her mother.

“It was just me and my sister in the house. I called her in and told her and we both just hugged. I called my mum straight away. She was incredibly proud.”

The headteacher of NCS, Mouhssin Ismail, praised Catherine, Umar and their fellow scholarship winners - Xuan Nguyen and Lennox Keeble.

He said: “To have students from some of the most disadvantaged boroughs in London win full scholarships to Harvard, Princeton and MIT is testament to the hard work of the students and their teachers.

“To know their lives will be enriched and changed forever is a great feeling.”