The Sunflower Initiative has awarded The Harriet Fitzgerald Scholarship to the following outstanding young women:
2019 — Thu-Yến Nguyen
Bryn Mawr College
The Sunflower Initiative has awarded the 2019 Harriet Fitzgerald Scholarship to Thu-Yến Nguyen of Hanoi, Vietnam. She will be attending Bryn Mawr College in September. Thu-Yến had an outstanding academic record at The Olympia Schools in Hanoi as well as accomplishing many firsts for her age and gender. She was the youngest student ever elected as Student Government President at The Olympia Schools, 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 attest to 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 noticed that, beyond her own accomplishments, Yến frequently served in a supportive role for fellow students. A teacher writes 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.”
2018 — Ariana Carranza
We are pleased to announce that Ariana Carranza of Palo Alto, California, will attend 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 and is now realizing her dream of attending a top college in the United States.
Ariana has achieved an outstanding school record. Recommendations from her teachers attest to her compassion and intellectual talent. Her Biology and Human Anatomy teacher writes, “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 has had the opportunity to attend the Summer Math and Science Honors Academy (SMASH) at Stanford University for three summers. During the year she tutors 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.”
2017 — Maggie Micklo
Mt. Holyoke College
Maggie Micklo of Glen Ellyn, Illinois, is 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. She writes that her time 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 has hosted French exchange students in the U.S. Her teachers note that she is a fearsome debater because of her analytical skills and incredible grasp of the language. She is active in local politics, passionate about the rights of individuals and displays a “deep sense of empathy and concern for people who have individual differences.”
This summer, Maggie interned for the Coalition for a Better Illinois 6th, a group of over 25 grassroots programs organized to monitor and hold accountable the representative from the 6th Illinois district. She helped conduct forums, canvass neighborhoods, phone bank, and meet with local leaders, gaining valuable knowledge about political and community organizing.
We welcome Maggie as our sixth scholarship recipient.
2016 — Ilse Meiler
Ilse Meiler, our 2016 Harriet Fitzgerald Scholarship recipient, was accepted to study at the University of Geneva with the “Smith in Geneva” program in the spring of 2019 where she will study Russian language, history and religion. All courses will be taught in French. When planning for fall courses with her advisor, she discovered that she will be only one course short of a Russian, Eastern European and Eurasian Area Studies double major, so she will take an extra class and declare the double major. She also has begun Smith’s process for a Fulbright inquiry and is currently looking into applying to an English Teaching Assistantship in Eastern Europe or Central Asia.
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.
Ilse is also recognized for her writing skills, having won regional and state prizes this spring in drama, critical essays, and poetry. She joined the Young Ambassador program at the Smithsonian Institution’s Latino Center, for which she worked at the History Colorado Center in Denver in the summer of 2016.
Below, Ilse herself describes winning the scholarship and her experiences at Smith:
2015 — Emily Moss
The Sunflower Initiative’s fourth recipient of the Harriet Fitzgerald Scholarship is Emily Moss of Bedford, Massachusetts. Now a senior at Wellesley, Emily was recently awarded a Truman Scholarship, the premier graduate fellowship in the United States for those pursuing careers as public service leaders. Emily is one of fifty-nine outstanding college students from fifty-two institutions selected as Truman Scholars. We are so very proud of Emily and know that the Truman scholarship will provide exciting opportunities after graduating from Wellesley.
The Press Release announcing the Truman Scholars attests 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, 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.”
2014 — Marley Forest
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. Approximately 40 students are chosen from across the majors and disciplines to participate in the program as Albright Fellows 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 at the end of the program. (from the Albright Fellow website) Marley was also honored by her classmates to serve as the senior class student commencement speaker.
The 2014 applicant pool was the strongest in the history of the scholarship. As an International Baccalaureate student, Marley’s curriculum was the most rigorous possible in an American public high School. She attended Bend High School. Marley’s high school activities span 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.”
2013 — Chelsea Osademe
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 pursued her goal to become a college English professor. 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.
She attended the Moore Undergraduate Research Apprentice Program (MURAP) summer program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is presently pursuing a Master’s degree in English at Kansas State University.
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.”
2012 — Aastha Sharma
Aastha Sharma, our first Harriet Fitzgerald Scholarship recipient, graduated summa cum laude on May 14 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 will continue her studies at the University of Illinois – Urbana Champaign where she will work toward a PhD in Materials Chemistry/Engineering.
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: