Michelle Hiskey, 404-413-3486
Each week during the school year, Almeera Jiwa appears as the confident, welcoming face of Georgia State University as she co-hosts @GSU_News, a show on campus social media channels.
Off camera, Jiwa's personal narrative is one of struggle for respect and self-confidence. Since her father died when she was 4, she has always fought to overcome her nerves, which she did well enough to become a professional TV and film actor in her hometown of Vancouver. She is wired to seek approval from her audience.
"My downfall is that I need validation, and TV and film don't give you that from the audience," she said. "A scholarship is a great validation that, 'Yes, I can do this.'"
Her unique set of achievements – as a 4.2 GPA Honors senior journalism major and a 1913 Society Ambassador who also speaks Hindi and Gujarati – helped Jiwa earn a University-Wide Scholarship.
"Almeera is a great representation of the independent and dynamic nature of GSU. She's highly motivated, self-sufficent and looks for every opportunity to be successful," said Andrea Jones, GSU assistant vice president for communications. "Investing in her through scholarship funding shows that GSU believes in her present maturity and potential for even greater success after graduation."
Jiwa's path parallels other nontraditional students in age and diverse experience. At 27, she appears years younger to casting agents; you may have seen her playing teenagers on Nickelodeon shows such as "Romeo."
"I am so small that it was hard for others to take seriously this little East Indian girl trying to do Shakespeare, and I often wondered who would ever hire me," she said. "My teachers said that beyond children's theatre, they didn't know. Something inside me decided not to accept that."
When she tapes the GSU show with fellow student Joseph Shepherd, the 5-foot-1 Jiwa stands on a crate.
"For 10 years, I've been playing 15-year-olds, but this time in college is where I am growing into myself and playing more characters my own age," she said.
"Coming to Atlanta has been an exciting move, and financially, a difficult one. That's where scholarships come in."
Jiwa came here on a student visa from Vancouver after falling in love with a Fulton County public schoolteacher who loves learning as much as she does. CNN and Turner attracted her as magnets for a career in broadcast journalism career or TV production. As her partner pursued his master's degree in education, she decided to face her fears and try college.
She had attended drama school in Canada and worked as an actress and a producer for a large-scale public production company, but doubted her ability to step into the role of a college student.
"It was terrifying to be in an academic institution. I had no idea I could do it," said Jiwa, who went on to also receive the Georgia Executive Network Association Scholarship for nontraditional female leaders.
"Even though I doubted myself, I wanted to prove myself wrong and overcome it. I'm still scared of college, but I'm proud of myself for sticking with it. The scholarships are great because the biggest thing for me was to believe in myself."
Jiwa met her co-host while working with him on the student TV station, GSTV, producing and hosting an entertainment show called "The Scoop." She's taken on the writing of @GSU_News scripts and also works on social media analytics for GSU University Relations. She's served as a production assistant on the cable TV series, "Walking Dead."
"Everything has exceeded my expectations," she said. "At Georgia State, every door I've knocked on someone has greeted me with open arms."