From coast to coast

photo of johana Gucci smiling near flowers

At age 16, Johana Guci moved 5,000 miles with their parents and younger brother from the southwestern banks of Lake Ohrid in Pogradec, Albania, to the southern shore of Lake Erie in Lakewood, Ohio.

Communist takeover of their home country after World War II stranded two generations of Johana’s family in Albania, even though their great-great-grandparents had already immigrated to the United States in the 1920s. 

Though diplomatic relations with the U.S. were reestablished after the 1991 collapse of Albania’s communist regime, the family reunification process between the countries was slow. Johana’s family remained split across continents until 2018, when their move to Ohio brought them within driving distance of Rochester, New York, where Johana’s great-great-grandparents had settled nearly a century earlier.

Today, Johana is a third-year biochemistry major at Case Western Reserve University, preparing for a career in medicine and research. They knew they wanted to stay in Ohio for college and that Case Western Reserve was "by far the best option." But the tuition price was a concern.

“Then I got the financial aid package with scholarships that cover a large portion of my tuition,” they said. “I was so relieved. I wouldn’t have been able to attend CWRU if not for these scholarships.”

Johana is taking advantage of every opportunity while at Case Western Reserve, from conducting research and attending leadership conferences to holding a work-study job and participating in more than a dozen different clubs and volunteer groups, both on and off campus.

Johana is on the executive board of the Residence Hall Association and is public relations officer for both the CWRU Undergraduate Biochemistry Society and the Physical Resource Center, which provides free school supplies and clothing for students. 

And, with the start of junior year in the fall, Johana will become executive president of the Mortar Board—a prestigious honors society normally reserved for exemplary college seniors.

When not in the lab or leading a new club, Johana can be found enjoying the museums in University Circle or eating in Little Italy with friends.

“The scholarships I received made it possible for me to come to CWRU and to utilize all of these resources to excel, grow and advance in my field,” said Johana. “I may not have had these opportunities elsewhere, and I’m so grateful to scholarship donors for helping me pursue all of these things that I love.”