UB Student Spotlight: Marwah Ismail

Marwah Ismail

Burnsville High School grad heading for Wellesley College

Marwah Ismail, 18, a 2020 graduate of Burnsville High School, participated in TRIO/Upward Bound at Dakota County Technical College. Marwah is continuing her education at Wellesley College in Wellesley, Massachusetts. Ranked #24 in the United States by THE World University Rankings, Wellesley College is widely regarded as the top women’s college in the country.

Marwah plans to major in economics at Wellesley while taking courses to prepare herself for a career in business. “My goal is to attend business school,” she said. “I would like to work with the stock market, or enter the business world of healthcare.”

Erikka Ryan served as Marwah’s TRIO/Upward Bound advisor at Burnsville High School. Erikka continues to be impressed by Marwah’s determination and ability to inspire other students.

Erikka Ryan

“Marwah has been an outstanding and integral part of our UB community,” Erikka said. “She is not just a standout in her work ethic, commitment to education, and bettering herself, but she also takes the time to share, encourage and motivate our younger students. I am unbelievably proud to have been her advisor this past year—and she has bettered me as a person and educator throughout our time together.”

Erikka added that completing a large list of college, scholarship and financial aid applications takes a tremendous amount of time and energy. “Because of Marwah’s dedication to UB, she was able to access a lot of resources that made this process less challenging and more exciting,” Erikka said. “Marwah is a prime example that if you commit to a program like UB—one that challenges you, supports you and celebrates you—you can reach and exceed your goals of getting a college education that may have otherwise seemed unattainable.”

Marwah worked diligently on her scholarship and grant applications—and that work paid off. She accepted a $259,364 Wellesley Institutional Grant, a $500 Fairview Ridges Hospital Scholarship and a $5,595 Pell Grant.

“Effort means money,” Marwah said. “The harder you work, the more you’ll get. Don’t stop trying to perfect yourself and always give it your all.”

Marwah Ismail Q & A

What do you like best about Upward Bound?
I like the exposure Upward Bound students receive. We are able to visit college campuses, explore career pathways and just get overall glimpses of the real world. Without this, I know I would not be close to prepared for college and beyond—so I’m very grateful.

How has Upward Bound prepared you for college?
I’ve been given so much advice, help, support and motivation from my advisors and UB friends. Upward Bound showed me that a successful future can most definitely become reality, and they helped me get there today.

Three words that describe you as an Upward Bound student:

What advice would you give students thinking about enrolling in Upward Bound?
Do it! Upward Bound will be an experience in your life that you’ll never forget. You’ll find a welcoming family and a powerful support group that’ll lead you to success.

What person has influenced you the most in life?
My mother because she has always motivated me to work hard and never to settle for less. Because of that, I owe all my successes to her.

Where do you see yourself in 20 years?
Married with children while working for a company or my own business, and just living life.

Marwah Ismail gallery

More about Upward Bound at DCTC…

Upward Bound is part of the family of Federal TRIO programs funded by the U.S. Department of Education.

UB Duluth trip

TRIO programs ensure equal educational opportunities for all students by providing skills and information needed to overcome class, social and cultural barriers to higher education.

Upward Bound helps students succeed academically by giving them the tools they need to first graduate from high school before enrolling in and graduating from college. Upward Bound participants have college potential, but are often unaware of the academic and career options beyond high school.


  • A motivational program based on academics, Upward Bound assists high school students with graduation requirements while preparing them for enrollment in and eventual completion of postsecondary education.
  • Funded by the U.S. Department of Education and sponsored by Dakota County Technical College, Upward Bound serves 50 students in grades 9–12 from Henry Sibley and South St. Paul high schools and 60 students from Burnsville High School.
  • All qualified students are encouraged to apply. Our policy obliges us to accept students who best conform to the program’s federal guidelines. Applications are available through the guidance offices. We will accept students who best conform to the program’s federal income guidelines, first-generation in the family to attend college, and potential for success in a college program of study.

More about Marwah…

Marwah was an exceptionally active student at Burnsville High School. Besides belonging to TRIO Upward Bound, she took part in Academic Quiz Bowl, Science Quiz Bowl and science fairs. She was also a member of the National Honors Society (NHS).

Marwah’s mother, Muna, is an interpreter—Muna also owns and operates her own small business, M5 Café. Marwah has three younger siblings: one brother, Mahir, 15, and two sisters, Safa, 11, and Mudan, 8. In her free time, Marwah enjoys singing, binge-watching TV shows, and exploring different shops and stores.

Originally from Nashville, Tennessee, Marwah resides with her family in Burnsville, Minnesota.

One word that best describes your Upward Bound experience:


Marwah Ismail 12 Answers

  1. Favorite sport or physical activity: Badminton
  2. Place you would most like to visit: Spain
  3. The most exciting thing you’ve ever done: Travel to Africa
  4. Three things you would do if you won a $1 billion lottery: 1) Invest around 30 percent of the money. 2) Donate to as many organizations and foundations as possible 3) Buy my family and myself everything we want
  5. Favorite TV show you’re watching now: All American
  6. Best movie you’ve seen lately: Us—the one with Lupita Nyong’o
  7. One thing you most want to accomplish in life: Be able to go to Mecca
  8. Your national bird if you were your own country: Hummingbird
  9. Dream occupation: Emergency room physician
  10. Person you would most like to meet: Alive—Michelle Obama, Dead—Genghis Khan
  11. Skill you would most like to learn and master: Speed reading
  12. Most important issue or problem facing humankind: Racial injustice and inequality in the world, especially in first-world countries
Learn more about TRIO/Upward Bound at DCTC by contacting:

Erikka Ryan
TRIO Upward Bound Advisor