NC State announces scholarships honoring Chapel Hill shooting victims

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School asking for contributions to endowment to provide scholarships for perpetuity.

NC State is honoring the victims of last week's triple murder in Chapel Hill by setting up a scholarship fund in their memory. Two of the victims were graduates of State. The third was still a student there.

"This is the first blessing and the first happy day after the tragedy," said Mohammad Abu-Salha, father of the two sisters killed in the attack, 21-year-old Yusor and 18-year-old Razan. Today, for both families, tears of joy were replaced - however briefly - by tears of happiness.

"There's no way to describe it, we're just so pleased and so happy," said Namee Barakat, father of the third victim and Yusor's husband, 23-year-old Deah Barakat.

Both families put a huge emphasis on education and say the scholarship announced today in the memory of the three young victims is a fitting tribute.

PHOTOS: Remembering the Chapel Hill shooting victims

"Nothing is more awesome than supporting scholars on an annual basis to come here and study if they couldn't afford it," said Abu-Salha. "And just exemplify the same things that these three children lived."

"It's just such a touching, such a beautiful day," said Namee Barakat. "We really needed a day like this and we're so touched by NC State." Barakat says when he heard the school was going to create a scholarship, "I cried and I cried and I cried. It was just such a joy to hear this because with our family being all about education and how strong we are about it... there's no way to describe it. We're just so pleased and so happy."

Barakat's daughter (Deah's sister), Suzanne Barakat, explained further.

"Education is everything to my family and there's a reason why my father is crying today. It's because to realize that, out of this horrendous tragedy, that these incredible scholarships that will continue to provide education to so many people for so much time to come - you have made his dream come true," said Suzanne.

Mohammad Abu-Salha had similar sentiments about the endowment.

"Nothing is more awesome," he said, "than supporting scholars on an annual basis to come here and study if they can't afford it and just exemplify the same things that these three children lived."

And because Islam is so deeply embedded in the lives of the victims and their families, the endowment announced holds an even higher place of honor.

"Our faith actually addresses this," said Yousef Abu-Salha, Yusor and Razan's brother. "It's called the continual charity and it's something that can only be obtained if you start a charity that goes on forever, such as building a place of worship or a school. And so that's the first thing that came to my mind, that we're going to create a chance for them to be honored and keep generating good deeds."

Yousef Abu-Salha says the two families still ache for the loved ones shot and killed last week. "The nights are long," he told ABC11, "walking by their bedrooms, every time, I take a look inside. It's just sad. It's like they were just here."

Still Abu-Salha says overwhelming support from around the world has helped the families cope. "The support - internationally, local, national, community - has just been. I can't even put it into words really. People have been sending us wishes and prayers from the Vatican, from South Africa, all the countries in Europe, North America and South America."

NC State Chancellor Randy Woodson says the school started the endowment with $60,000 but will rely on donations to grow the fund. He hopes it will start generating scholarships for students next year.

"We want, as a university, to do everything we can to remember their legacy and to inspire in others here at NC State to live a life exemplary of that legacy," said Woodson. "Deah, Yusor, and Razan exemplified the best of NC State and will forever serve as role models for our student body."

Students in the three colleges of the victims will be eligible for the scholarships: Management, Sciences, and Design. Criteria will be need and merit based.

Contributions to the Our Three Winners Fund can be made securely online at Checks made out to Our Three Winners fund may be sent to: Our Three Winners, Campus Box 7474, Raleigh, NC 27695-7474.

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