There is an old thought that says if you are living only for yourself, you are not living at all. If true, Utah State University alum Mehdi Heravi is an embodiment of what it means to live. In order to help students in need, Heravi has created a total of 27 scholarships spanning across several colleges and areas of study on campus. He does this without question or expectation, as he believes helping others is part of his moral obligation in life.
For Heather Sapp, a master’s student enrolled in the Online Practical Teacher Training program in the Emma Eccles Jones College of Education and Human Services, Heravi’s generosity has impacted not only her life for the better, but the lives of her students and the people in her community. Sapp, who received the Arya M. Heravi Endowed Scholarship, works as a teacher for special needs children in Utah County, while also working to earn a teaching certificate and master’s in the Special Education and Rehabilitation Counseling Department.
“After nearly 20 years of raising my kids, I suddenly found myself in need of employment in order to support myself and my family,” Sapp said. “Receiving the scholarship from Dr. Heravi opened the door and bridged that unthinkable gap. Thanks to him, I can go to school and work as an educator, without going into debt.”
Sapp heard about the USU program while working at an elementary school, where the school principal encouraged her to apply. After a nearly two-decade break, the idea of going back to school was somewhat terrifying. However, the need for quality, long-term employment pushed her to make the leap. After enrolling, Sapp’s hesitation about returning to school quickly shifted to enjoyment as she began to realize how fulfilling earning a degree had become.
“Finding success at USU, while teaching, has helped me grow as an individual,” Sapp said. “I feel more confident in my professional skills and the ability to provide for myself financially.”
For Sapp, working with special needs students came naturally and the program at USU was a perfect fit.
“I have always enjoyed working with special needs people,” Sapp said. “When I was in elementary school, there was a special needs school next door, and then in college, I worked in a home for adults with special needs. I was naturally drawn to this career and I am good at it.”
Heravi believes that those who work in the area of special education, like Sapp, represent the best of humanity. His son, Arya, who the scholarship is named for, was born with cerebral palsy, and is dependent on these selfless caretakers.
“It takes a kind soul to work in special education,” Heravi said. “They are selfless, patient, loving, humble, kind and thoughtful.”
Sapp, who lives in Mapleton, Utah, has been happy with the quality and pace of USU’s online program. She touts the versatility and flexibility of earning a degree online, because she can participate while working as a teacher, or anything else she has going on. It fits with her life.
“I know teachers can change lives and it is my goal to make a difference by learning the skills I need to be an effective teacher,” Sapp said.
Heravi, who left his home as a young man in Tehran, Iran, to come to Logan and finish his senior year of high school at Logan High, knows the importance of selfless people. He credits USU, where he earned both a political science bachelor’s in 1963 and master’s in 1964, with giving him success and teaching him compassion. As such, he feels a commitment to give back to the institution because he believes in the university’s ability to provide students with the education needed so that they one day can go out and make a difference in society. His confidence in the university’s excellence led him to establish the scholarship endowments, gifts he knows will impact generations of learners.
Sapp is mindful of the gift from Heravi, and as she gets further through the program, she is excited about the possibilities the career path will offer.
“The scholarships from Dr. Heravi are enriching Utah’s communities,” Sapp said. “There will be more qualitied educators making a difference to children with special needs.”