Meet Our Scholars
Portland Community College
David H. Steward & M. Pierre Friedrichs Scholarship
Ajai Duncan is a biracial, queer woman who was raised by her grandparents. For 21 years Ajai made a life for herself in the beauty industry. Ajai paid her own way through three different types of beauty schools in order to further herself, in order to survive. Before the pandemic, Ajai was working three different types of jobs: on-call at Nordstrom as a Beauty Consultant, trying to make it on her own as an Esthetician, and performing at night. Sex work helped Ajai pay her bills for 12 years. Both of Ajai’s parents are addicts and her father passed away at a young age. Ajai has no other family alive aside from her mother and little brother, both addicted to drugs and in and out of prison. Ajai supports them when she can. In 2021, Ajai was 40 and had never graduated high school. Now, Ajai is in school, is a member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society and she plans to transfer to a university. Ajai plans to earn her Masters in Social Work.
She wants to set an example and help youth, letting them know there are other ways out and they can change their lives. The more support children have from stable people who care, the better off they can be in order to succeed in life and change their own family dynamics.