SALT LAKE CITY — On Wednesday, Granite Park Junior High student Syeda Hashmi stood in front of her cheering peers as she was handed flowers, chocolates, a new laptop and a series of checks that escalated in both size and value.
As this year's recipient of Granite School District's "Absolutely Incredible Kid Award," Hashmi received $1,700 from local businesses during a school assembly that took the ninth-grade student by surprise.
"I never expected this," Hashmi said. "My dreams are coming true. I'm so happy."
Hashmi's family immigrated to the United State from Pakistan roughly two years ago, school officials said. Since that time, Hashmi has maintained a 3.9 grade point average and involved herself in a number of extra-curricular activities, including the school's Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement — or MESA — club, science Olympiads and yearbook staff.
Hashmi said the money she received will go toward her college savings. She intends to go to medical school and become a general practitioner, which she hopes to pay for herself through savings and scholarships.
"I want to do everything by myself," she said. "I don’t want to put pressure on my parents."
Sherrie Mortensen, a Granite Park teacher who works in the school's AVID college preparatory program, nominated Hashmi for the Absolutely Incredible Kid Award.
She said Hashmi is most recognizable for her persistent smile, but behind that smile is a drive and persistence that Mortensen has never before seen in a student.
"If you could build a student, she would be the perfect student," Mortensen said.
The award was created last year to recognize students who overcome obstacles, said Brent Sever, director of the Granite Education Foundation. He said organizers were impressed with how much Hashmi has achieved in the short time since she immigrated to the United States.
In addition to the Granite Education Foundation, American Funds and Trusts Inc., the South Salt Lake Chamber and VLCM contributed to the award.
Granite Park Junior High Vice Principal Aaron Wilson said the honor for Hashmi was well-deserved. He said it is typical for her to stay after school for several hours because of the various activities she's involved in.
"Granite Park has a lot of incredible kids and seeing one of their peers receive this award is not only good for the student but it reinforces to all the others the things that we value in our school," he said.