Dr. Ben Carson's scholarship program affecting lives in West Michigan

BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - The second Republican debate begins at 8 p.m. Wednesday night, and this time, 11 presidential hopefuls will face off.

Detroit native and retired neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson is on the list, and he's gaining ground on front-runner Donald Trump.

Carson also has ties to Battle Creek, where the Carson Scholars Fund is helping students tackle the cost of college.

Dr. Carson started the fund in 1994, and for years the program has been awarding scholarships.

On Wednesday, we spoke with a young man from Battle Creek who received one of those scholarships.

Nearly five months ago, Ari Shabani received a $1,000 scholarship from the Carson Scholars Fund.

"I was like boo-yah! But my dad told me it was gonna go straight to college so I was like, man..." he said.

It's a concept Ari can't quite wrap his head around just yet. But for his father Arben, though, it's a very different story.

"For me, you know growing up and having nothing and growing up in a communist regime and not being able to go to school, so it was very emotional," he said.

Arben shabani grew up in the former Yugoslavia. He was not allowed to be educated beyond the fifth grade.

In April, Ari, who was in the fifth grade at the time, found out he was chosen as a scholarship recipient.

"It just brought me to tears, it really did. because he took it very seriously," Arben said. "Obviously, you know, the money and that but that's not the point. The point is changing the lives; his. Ben Carson's program."

The program--started by now presidential hopeful Dr. Ben Carson--awards students across the country who not only excel academically, but those who take part in a number of community service projects, as well.

This year, there were 27 new Carson Scholars in Michigan.

Arben tells us he's grateful his son will get the opportunities he never had. As for Ari:

"I think that's pretty cool that I might have met a future president," he said.

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