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Women Funding Women’s Education
The Sunflower Initiative logo
Women Funding Women’s Education


The Sunflower Initiative has awarded The Harriet Fitzgerald Scholarship to the following outstanding young women:

Alena Rooney

2020 — Alena Rooney

Smith College

The Sunflower Initiative has awarded the 2020 Harriet Fitzgerald Scholarship to Alena Rooney of Chicago, Illinois. Alena will graduate from the Chicago Waldorf High School and will enroll at Smith College in the fall.

The Scholarship Committee was impressed by the wide variety and depth of studies that Alena pursued at the Waldorf School. She also was a four-year varsity volleyball player, senior co-captain, a student representative to the parent community, a school ambassador, and a peer tutor in German.

Her teachers praised “a highly motivated, curious, engaged student,” with “a distinguished work ethic and striking level of motivation.” and were equally unanimous in pointing out “her gracious presence in the classroom,” “perhaps the most gracious and thoughtful classroom presence of any student,” and “her remarkable capacity for empathy.” Her academic record is flawless, and her achievements beyond her school record reveal deep interests in languages, music, and justice. As a sophomore, she initiated a three-month exchange program in Freiberg, Germany, gaining a language proficiency and motivation that led her German instructor at Waldorf to nominate Alena for the Internationale Deutscholympiade, the largest German language competition in the world. She was one of two students selected to represent the United States at the event which brought together students from all over the world.

Alena’s interest in music ranges from traditional to contemporary. She has played Irish fiddle music since she was six years old competing nationally in the Midwest Fleadh Cheoil and internationally in the All Ireland Fleadh. Recently she has taken up rock violin, performing with the band Poi Dog Pondering at various venues in Chicago. Alena has participated in yearly service-learning projects with her Waldorf classmates. A week at STAND the Haiti Project, a rehabilitation clinic in Port-au-Paix, Haiti, was a pivotal experience leading to an interest in global women’s health.

She writes, “Throughout my life I have been guided by my innate sense of balance, one that seeks to uproot injustice in any field I can. The empowering environment at a women’s college will help cultivate my will to do meaningful work, to be a leader, to be confident and resolute in my beliefs.”

Thu-Yến Nguyen

2019 — Thu-Yến Nguyen

Bryn Mawr College

The Sunflower Initiative awarded the 2019 Harriet Fitzgerald Scholarship to Thu-Yến Nguyen of Hanoi, Vietnam. She is completing her first year at Bryn Mawr College. Thu-Yến had an outstanding high school academic record at The Olympia Schools in Hanoi. She was the youngest student ever elected as Student Government President, chosen “Best Speaker” at the Vietnam Schools Debating Championship 2017, and led the 2017 Vietnam Schools National Debate Team to win “Best New Nation” at the 2017 World Schools Debating Championship and Harvard College World Schools Invitations as Team Captain.

Teachers praised her commitment and perseverance. “In 2015, inspired by our class discussion on Gender Equality, Thu-Yến wrote an outstanding article that was selected by the United Nations (UN) Women Asia & The Pacific. During events like UNiTE to End Violence against Women, UN Sustainable Developments 7-Day Challenge, Day of the Girl Child, she successfully inspired a diverse group of over 5,000 students both in and outside of The Olympia Schools to participate, including students as young as 10 years old.”

The Scholarship Committee noted that, beyond her own accomplishments, Yến frequently served in a supportive role for fellow students. One teacher wrote that Yến is a “servant-leader who tirelessly nurtures her community of strong leaders, and constantly seeks out opportunities for them to achieve the seemingly impossible.”

Thu-Yến’s desire to attend a women’s college was clear: “The supporting system at a women’s college is unique… In such developmental and empowering environment, I could establish a global network of female leaders who will help me create a culture of acceptance and celebration of women’s achievements.”

Ariana Carranza

2018 — Ariana Carranza

Barnard College

Ariana Carranza of Palo Alto, California, enrolled at Barnard College as the 2018 Harriet Fitzgerald Scholar. Ariana immigrated with her parents from Peru when she was nine. She is a first generation college student who is now realizing her dream of attending a top college in the United States. 

Ariana achieved an outstanding high school record. Recommendations from her teachers attest to her compassion and intellectual talent. Her Biology and Human Anatomy teacher wrote “Ariana possesses all the qualities of a great leader. She is passionate, honest, accountable and supportive of others. In and out of the classroom, she subtly takes on challenges and problem-solves by working collaboratively with others.” She founded the Latinx Affinity group at her high school and is also the captain of the school’s hip-hop dance team. She attended the Summer Math and Science Honors Academy (SMASH) at Stanford University for three summers. During her high school years she tutored younger students in math, science, and other courses. Her goal is to study medicine and pursue a career in public health.

Ariana attended both coeducational and all-female schools in California and before that in her native Peru. Realizing that she felt stronger, more confident, and even bolder in an all-female environment, she decided that a women’s college would be her first choice. “I had always felt the right balance of feeling challenged but also accepted and comfortable while studying amongst women.”

Maggie Micklo

2017 — Maggie Micklo

Mt. Holyoke College

Maggie Micklo of Glen Ellyn, Illinois, was the 2017 Harriet Fitzgerald Scholar. Maggie’s enthusiasm, articulateness, and pursuit of intellectual and societal challenges were evident during interviews with the TSI scholarship committee. Her experience as a high school student at Barnard College’s Young Women’s Leadership Institute was a pivotal experience. “My two weeks at Barnard showed me the power of women’s voices in a way I had never experienced in my co-educational high school. I added my perspective to the intelligent, motivated voices of my peers in discussions that not only changed my thinking but also changed the direction of my life. Women’s colleges create leaders, and strong leaders change the world.”

In addition to a stellar high school record, Maggie served as Senior Class President, participated in theatre productions, concert and madrigal choirs, speech and debate teams, and volunteered with at-risk children, bilingual students, LGBTQ youth and children with autism. As president of the Gender Equality Club at her school, she recruited both boys and girls to work on projects for women and children in homeless shelters in the Chicago area. She was an exchange student in Marseille, France, and hosted French exchange students in the U.S. Her teachers noted that she is a fearsome debater because of her analytical skills and incredible grasp of the language. She was active in local politics, passionate about the rights of individuals and displayed a “deep sense of empathy and concern for people who have individual differences.”

Maggie interned for Rep. Sean Casten, Congressman for the 6th Illinois district, during the summer of 2019 and studied Politics and French in Montpellier, France, during the Spring 2020 semester. 

Ilse Meiler

2016 — Ilse Meiler

Smith College

Ilse Meiler, our 2016 Harriet Fitzgerald Scholarship recipient, studied at the University of Geneva with the “Smith in Geneva” program in the spring of 2019 taking courses in Russian language, history and religion leading to a double major in Russian and Eastern European and Eurasian Area Studies.  She served as President of Lawrence House 2019-20 and was selected as a student fellow with Smith’s Kahn Institute. Future plans are to serve as a Peace Corp volunteer in the Kyrgyz Republic and eventually to study simultaneous interpretation in graduate school.

Ilse began her college career at Smith fluent in four languages. (Her father is German and her mother is Mexican.) Her strong academic interests were apparent in high school when she approached her high school’s chemistry teacher as a freshman, two years before entering his class, to seek his help on a project to determine whether “blood-thinning diseases such as hemophilia compromise the blood spatter patterns used by forensic investigators.” She won the Colorado state science fair in physics not only for the creativity and care with which she did this project but also because of the professional level of her analysis, after having taught herself the field of multivariate statistics just to make sense out of her 500 data trials.

When Ilse shot beyond the level of AP courses and post-AP courses available in French and differential equations, her high school invited her to help out with teachers going on leave so she began teaching first and second-period history at the 8th and 9th-grade levels. And her science teacher and debate coach commented that “Ilse’s brilliance spans disciplines,” that she thinks globally and understands global complexities.

Below, Ilse herself describes winning the Fitzgerald scholarship and her experiences at Smith:

Emily Moss

2015 — Emily Moss

Wellesley College

The Sunflower Initiative’s fourth recipient of the Harriet Fitzgerald Scholarship was Emily Moss of Bedford, Massachusetts. During her senior year at Wellesley College, Emily was awarded a Truman Scholarship, the premier graduate fellowship in the United States for those pursuing careers as public service leaders. She was one of fifty-nine outstanding college students from fifty-two institutions selected as Truman Scholars.  Emily is currently working as a research assistant in economic studies at the Brookings Institute.

The Press Release announcing the Truman Scholars attested to the depth of Emily’s achievements at Wellesley. “Emily is an economics major at Wellesley College. She is committed to ensuring every neighborhood has equal access to opportunity, particularly through the creation of affordable housing. Emily has researched economic security and urban policy issues with Wellesley’s Department of Economics, MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning, the New Economy Project, the Boston Municipal Research Bureau, and the Boston City Council. She has also applied her research interests to service work in her community, volunteering as a staff member at the student-run Harvard Square Homeless Shelter and as a representative in her local Town Meeting.”

In her essay accompanying her application for the Fitzgerald Scholarship, she wrote with excitement about her desire to be in an environment where it is the norm for women to hold positions of leadership and study whatever field they choose. She wrote, “When you are surrounded by the expectation that every woman is doing something amazing with her time you naturally grow accustomed to women’s leadership and adopt the mentality that you can do anything. My career, as is any endeavor, is undoubtedly possible – because in every other room, I’m treated like a woman; at Wellesley, I’m treated like a person.”

Emily Moss learns that she has won a Truman scholarship

Emily Moss learns that she has won a Truman scholarship

Marley Forest

2014 — Marley Forest

Wellesley College

Marley Forest of Bend Oregon, the third recipient of The Sunflower Initiative’s Harriet Fitzgerald Scholarship, graduated in June 2018 from Wellesley College where she majored in Political Science and Women’s and Gender Studies. She was a Madeleine Albright Institute Fellow while at Wellesley, one of approximately 40 students chosen from across the majors and disciplines to participate in the program each year. During the Institute, the Fellows work in multidisciplinary groups to address significant global challenges. After weeks of research, collaboration, and expert interviews, the Fellows make presentations to the Mary Jane Durnford ’59 Distinguished Visiting Professor. (from the Albright Fellow website). Marley was also honored by her classmates to serve as the senior class student commencement speaker. Marley is currently working for US Senator Jeff Merkley in Bend, Oregon.

The 2014 applicant pool for The Fitzgerald Scholarship was the strongest in the history of the scholarship. As an International Baccalaureate student at Bend High School, Marley’s curriculum was the most rigorous possible in an American public high School. Marley’s high school activities spanned music, sports and community service.

After being at Wellesley for a short time Marley said, ”Every woman I have met here has done so much and will do so much, and it is incredible to know that here at Wellesley all of these bright women will be given the space and the resources to flourish in their careers and lives after college. I feel that I am beginning to now truly understand why a women’s college education is so important.”

Chelsea Osademe

2013 — Chelsea Osademe

Spelman College

Chelsea Osademe of Pine Bluff, Arkansas was the 2013 recipient of The Sunflower Initiative’s Harriet Fitzgerald Scholarship. She received the Fitzgerald Scholarship while studying at Spelman College where she was involved with NROTC (Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps with Morehouse College), was a Senior Resident Advisor, served as the Freshman Class Council Treasurer, and was a member of the English Club and Senior Class Council. She was involved with Peace and Love AUC (Atlanta University Center), the African Student Association, and the Spelman College Granddaughter’s Club.

Chelsea attended the Moore Undergraduate Research Apprentice Program (MURAP) summer program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and was awarded a Master’s degree (2019) in English at Kansas State University where she received a “Graduate of the Year” award by the K-State Black Student Union.

Chelsea found that attendance at a woman’s college was the best environment for her to develop “from a girl to a strong woman … where my dreams can come to fruition.” Reflecting on her first year at Spelman, Chelsea said, “Without the aid of the Sunflower Initiative Scholarship, I would not have the wonderful opportunity of attending Spelman College. Attending an all-women’s college is a privilege and joy not known to many. It has afforded me the opportunity to grow in a community full of beautiful, talented, competitive, and loving women who are amazingly diverse, yet just like me.”

Aastha Sharma

2012 — Aastha Sharma

Wesleyan College

Aastha Sharma, our first Harriet Fitzgerald Scholarship recipient, graduated summa cum laude from Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia. Aastha had a double major, Applied Mathematical Science and Chemistry, and she completed an Honors Program entitled “Molecular Dynamics Study of Plasticity during Nanoindentation of Copper Crystals.” For each of her four years at Wesleyan, Aastha received the $10,000 Fitzgerald Scholarship, and we take great pride in her accomplishments at an all women’s college. Aastha is currently a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

At Wesleyan, Aastha was involved with campus life through the SGA and the KME Math Club. In her role as President of the Math Club, she coordinated events to encourage young women to pursue careers in male-dominated fields and she conducted tutoring sessions to help students develop basic math skills.

Aastha also had two summer internships at SAKHI (an anti-domestic violence organization primarily serving the South Asian community in New York City) and Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (in Germany) where she was “encouraged to push boundaries and to work diligently to pursue [her] dreams, while advocating for those voices [that] might be silenced or unheard.”

Reflecting on her experiences at a woman’s college, Aastha stated, “If I had not been surrounded by smart, ambitious, intelligent and driven women in a multicultural environment, I would not be the confident woman I am today.”

See what Aastha has to say about the impact of The Sunflower Initiative: