LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - It's a process almost every high school senior knows well - applying for college. Then there is scholarships and financial aid. But after J. Graham Brown School student Semhal Araya started getting multiple scholarship offers, she decided to keep a running list.
"I kept track of it on an excel chart, so I saw the actual numbers add up every time I typed it in it came in as a new sum and it was really kind of daunting to see how high the number got up," Araya said. "It's somewhere over $1.3 million."
It was an equation of hardwork and her parents sacrifice that make up that million dollar number. Araya's parents fled from Ethiopia during a civil war in the 1980s. They didn't get a chance at college and her dad wasn't able to finish high school.
"They never had a chance to have a traditional education, but they always told me that's the most important thing is to have an education and that's the way you make it in America," Araya said.
It's advice Araya kept close to her heart and on Friday morning, she graduated and spoke as the valedictorian. Her family from Ethiopia was watching from the audience.
"It's all because of what they did and it's kind of weird because they didn't get a chance to do that but because of them I got to do that, you know?" Araya said of her parents.
Araya will head to Duke in the fall on a full ride. And as hard as she worked, she's still finding it hard to believe.
"It's a lot, it's still crazy for me to hear that I got $1.3 million in scholarships, but I'm really proud of that," Araya said.
Araya has hopes of one day becoming an ambassador.