Zotheka Foundation Awards Two 2024 Scholarships

At halftime of the Alexandria Reds match on June 16 ASA was thrilled to recognize and honor the 2024 Zotheka Scholarship Award recipients, Elvert Nunez and Noel Mesfin. The Zotheka Scholarship Award, developed in 2023, is awarded to a male ASA Academy player who has demonstrated the resilience, determination and commitment necessary to succeed in college, but does not have access to financial resources to accept opportunities to compete at the collegiate level. This year, the applicants and their stories were so impactful that the committee selected two recipients.


Photo courtesy of Jason Taylor.


Jennifer Atkins and Michelle Millben, members of the Zotheka Foundation selection committee, presented the awards, on behalf of Autumn VandeHei who could not be in attendance. ASA staff member and coach Will Hanna, Councilman Canek Aguirre, and ASA Executive Director Tommy Park also participated in the ceremony.

The 2024 Zotheka Scholarship Award recipient is Elvert Nunez. In presenting Elvert’s award, Jennifer Atkins said that the scholarship committee was “blown away by his application,” and it was clear that he was both a leader and a hard worker in his community—at school, at home and in soccer. Elvert will continue his education this fall at James Madison University and Jennifer noted that the JMU campus is lucky to have Elvert as a new member of their community.


Photo courtesy of Jason Taylor.


The 2024 Zotheka Scholarship runner up is Noel Mesfin. Michelle Millben shared that the foundation “noticed his drive, focus and humility… and his aspirations to be a leader in technology.” He will attend Virginia Commonwealth University and is the first member of his family to attend college.

The future is bright for these two hardworking individuals and we are grateful to the Zotheka Foundation for recognizing their work and supporting their futures. Both Noel and Elvert were cheered on by their parents and siblings, and it was special to have so many family members in attendance.


Photo courtesy of Jason Taylor.


Last year’s Zotheka Scholarship recipient, Jarbin Rodriguez, spent a year at Northern Virginia Community College, achieving good grades, while also coaching at ASA. The foundation is proud to announce that he will be attending Shenandoah University to play soccer this fall where they will continue to support his journey. This Zotheka Scholarship award includes a mentorship component and Autumn VandeHei, Jarbin’s mentor, has been “inspired by his willingness to learn and grow as a young man, as a scholar, as a player, and as an example to those coming up behind him.”


Jarbin presents tactical updates to his MLS Next team during halftime of a game.


This award was founded by the VandeHei family, who have been integral members of the Alexandria community for over 15 years. They are inspired by multiple generations of soccer-playing family members who achieved access to college via soccer and developed the character to succeed as students and in the workforce thanks in part to years spent playing at the Academy level on scholarship. The word Zotheka, in the local language of Chichewa in Malawi conveys in the strongest way, the word POSSIBILITY.


From left to right; Will Hanna, Tommy Park, Jennifer Atkins, Noel Mesfin, Michelle Millben, Elbert Nunez, & Canek Aguirre. Photo courtesy of Jason Taylor.


The vision of the Zotheka Foundation aligns with ASA’s vision of being a leading community organization that empowers participants to achieve their greatest potential. This award both removes barriers to higher education and provides a mentor to support the transition into adulthood for deserving recipients. ASA is grateful to partner with Zotheka Foundation on this incredibly impactful initiative and we are proud that it is opening doors for our youth!

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