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Saskatoon teen that fled Afghanistan finds new future as finalist for $100K award

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A Saskatoon teen who escaped Afghanistan is now in the running for a $100,000 scholarship to a Canadian university.

Banin Arjmand was selected as a finalist for the Loran Award. Over 4,800 people applied for the award, which includes 36 scholarships that are set to be handed out.

Arjmand said she couldn’t believe the news once she heard.

“It is very big and I never ever thought that I could make it this far.”

The youngest of eight siblings, Arjmand came to Canada with her parents in 2021.

“You need to fight for your life for that journey. It was a month, but the pressure was more than that. In that journey you risk everything just to be safe, just to get out of your country at that time.”

She said her brother is encouraging her in her new life in Canada.

“I called that morning to my brother and I was like, okay, that's what I did, and I want to apply to these universities. My brother was like, ‘I’m proud of you.”

Arjmand said she was hoping to study international development or political science at either York or McGill University.

The Loran scholar is handed out to applicants based on their character, service, and leadership abilities. Even if a finalist does not win the full award, they will be given $5,000 towards their expenses at university.

Arjmand said it weighs on her that people in Afghanistan continue to suffer.

“A lot of people are hungry right now. Kids are dying because of hunger, because of the cold in Afghanistan. It's a hard situation.”

She said her life and country changed in a matter of hours. The day the Taliban took over, she had some tests and school activities to finish. She had written an exam that day and headed home for a break.

“When I walked to go home, there were army cars that were passing on the road,” she said. “That city was not normal on that day before the Taliban took over.”

At her home, she watched the situation unfold with her family.

“We saw the whole thing that there was a little bit of gun shooting and there were cars running out - army cars. And after that, there were just six people that came in with the motorbikes. They just go upstairs and change the flag.”

She said that she didn’t even return to school to finish her classes that day.

“Just in three hours, you cannot go outside anymore. And I stayed at home for over a week.”

Loran Scholar officials told CTV News in an email that Arjmand’s application showed how she organized her school’s disruption day, coordinated a school fundraiser, and has been an advocate to raise awareness of the struggles that Afghan women face. Arjmand coaches Wushu, is involved in dance, works to support her family and loves to read and participate in outdoor activities.

Finalist interviews will be held in Toronto from Feb. 24 – 26.

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