A women's college will provide an experience for me to...
Find my voice.
Speak my mind.
Tell the world.
A women’s college provides a supportive environment for students to explore their intellectual curiosity. Students build confidence to formulate their own ideas and share them by actively contributing to discussions inside and outside of the classroom. As graduates, they are fully prepared with the self-confidence, communications and critical thinking skills needed to lead in a global world.
Each year, The Sunflower Initiative selects a new scholarship recipient from a large number of applicants who are seeking a college experience where leadership and academic success are nurtured and celebrated. Scholarship selection is highly competitive, and applicants are evaluated on their academic and extracurricular achievements, character, leadership potential and contribution to their communities.
“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, 2015 Scholarship Recipient, Wellesley College
Scholar Ilse Meiler shares her experience at Smith College
Scholars Meet the TSI Board
Did you know?
There are over 15 different varieties of sunflowers.
TSI celebrates the diversity of our scholars. Like the individual petals of a sunflower, each is unique, coming from a variety of backgrounds, with a range of interests and life experiences. As petals grouped together to form a flower, collectively they represent the easy way in which women collaborate and are willing to work together to support each other and achieve big objectives.
The Sunflower Initiative is proud to shine a light on the incredible women who have impacted their women’s college communities and beyond.
2022 — Quinn Katayama-Stall
The Sunflower Initiative has awarded a 2022 Harriet Fitzgerald Scholarship to Quinn Katayama-Stall of Portland, Oregon. Quinn took virtually every AP course (19 of them) available at her high school, along with three years of Japanese. She will graduate from Westview High School as a National Merit Semifinalist and an Advanced Placement Scholar with Distinction.
While earning a perfect academic record, Quinn was also a championship swimmer (captain of her high school swim team), requiring more than 18 hours per week of pool time and weight-lifting year-round that takes her to competitions at the district, state, and national levels. She plans to swim for Scripps as well and is likely to pursue a major in chemistry there.
Her teachers and coaches praise her leadership skills and emotional intelligence, noting instances in which she showed an unusual ability to help inspire others to work toward a common goal and to create an atmosphere that inspires others to work harder. Her AP economics teacher says that “her kind, caring personality and her personal drive and initiative to strive for her best make her a natural leader.” Her swim coach has been “consistently impressed with her as an athlete, a team leader, and an overall person …. Despite how common it is for teenagers or athletes to struggle with their emotions, Quinn separated herself from her peers by showing a unique composure that was grounded in self-awareness, logic, and a contagious positivity.”
She is also dedicated to maintaining connections to her Japanese-American heritage, and with her mother is working on biographies of two uncles who served in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team in World War II. She enjoys tutoring younger children several hours a week, and she also works at her community center providing free meals to the needy.
Having found from her experiences on swim teams how important bonds among women can be, Quinn became very interested in women’s colleges. In her essay, she wrote “I hope to further develop my academic skills in order to contribute more significantly to the communities I am a part of, not my career agenda. I’m confident that I will find inspiration through interactions with faculty who prioritize uplifting women and with peers who share my passion for feminism.”
2022 — Alyssa Richardson
The Sunflower Initiative has awarded a 2022 Harriet Fitzgerald Scholarship to Alyssa Richardson of Washington, D.C. Alyssa is graduating as salutatorian of her class from the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington, D.C., a public arts magnet school to which students apply in order to be considered. Ellington students carry a demanding academic load along with rehearsals and exacting training in the arts.
She arranges her own music and recordings, performs regularly in the Ellington “Voices in Motion” Show Choir and serves as dance captain for performances with choreography. She has performed in the Kennedy Center, and she serves on the Kennedy Center’s Youth Council to create opportunities in the arts for the local community. Alyssa recently had the honor of singing “America the Beautiful” at the 2022 White House Easter Egg roll https://www.instagram.com/p/CcghkiYAZMj/ and performed in the classical treble voice competition held by the National Association of Teachers of Singing https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LI5oVk5sMHU.
Alyssa is active in school governance, serving as an at-large representative of the senior class in Ellington’s student government. She is involved in the DC State Board of Education and the DC Public Schools, where she serves as a student advocate, meeting with DC teachers and administrators to design new social studies standards for the curriculum.
In addition to dance and music, Alyssa pursued Honors and AP courses from AP English literature to AP chemistry and AP biology. Her long-term goal is to become a physician specializing in women’s reproductive health in order to address racial inequities in health outcomes. She volunteered at a pharmacy to assist with immunizations, studied mental health, and became a pre-medicine intern at George Washington University Hospital where she shadowed physicians and won the Community Health Project competition at the end of the program.
Alyssa’s interest in women’s colleges began with her experience in the all-female choir in her first year at Ellington School of the Arts, where she learned that uniquely women-centered support can be found “in an environment where I feel comfortable amplifying my voice.” She writes, “I want to thrive in an academic environment that nurtures my interests and my overall success…. Being surrounded by women who are making change in the world despite societal barriers will inspire me to push forward in the pursuit of my goals.”
2021 — Nazira Davroni
Nazira Davroni, The Sunflower Initiative’s first recipient of the Elizabeth Gordon McCrodden Leadership Award, is a remarkable young entrepreneur, scholar, and leader, committed to eliminating social constraints that hinder women from achieving their fullest potential. Nazira embodies the same determination, entrepreneurial energy, broad vision, leadership, and selfless devotion to the cause of women’s education that Betsy McCrodden exhibited in her 10 years of leadership at The Sunflower Initiative.
Nazira was born in the United States and attended virtual schools until her family returned to Uzbekistan when she was beginning high school. She helped her family rehabilitate their small family farm by implementing a business plan to produce and market dairy products. At the same time, she maintained a demanding academic course load that included learning Uzbek and Russian, on top of maintaining fluency in English and Tajik. Her teachers wrote glowing letters of recommendation, describing her as ambitious, inspiring, amazingly compassionate, thirsty for knowledge, and their “most driven, highest excelling” student in 40 years.
Nazira cares about the future for all girls. To expand opportunities for women, she co-developed a smart phone application called First2College for students who hope to become the first in their families to go to college and interviewed Uzbekistan’s Minister of Public Education Shermatov on national television about the benefits of educating women instead of consigning them to early forced marriage. In 2020, she participated in Running Start for girls to learn about electoral campaigns and women in leadership. Serving as the Political Director for her winning campaign team, Nazira “felt empowered for the first time…. It meant that I could make it out of my situation—like Malala Yousafzai, Michelle Obama, and Oprah—all powerful women who bolstered their education to become successful.”
Having completed her first year at Barnard College, Nazira plans to study human rights, hoping to become “a humanitarian diplomat within Central Asia to help girls like me defy confining cultural expectations and receive access to free, safe, and quality education… and to better straddle cross-cultural bridges like those I’ve had to cross.” She sees women’s colleges as essential, as “a learning landscape shaped by empowered women who equip others to follow in their footsteps.”
2021 — Kennedi Malone
Agnes Scott College
The Sunflower Initiative has awarded the 2021 Harriet Fitzgerald Scholarship to Kennedi Malone of Fayetteville, Georgia. Kennedi will graduate with both academic and leadership honors and an excellent academic record from McIntosh High School in Peachtree City, Georgia, and will attend Agnes Scott College in Fall 2021.
The TSI scholarship committee was impressed by Kennedi’s maturity during the interview process. Her self-described strengths of “precise organization, clear communication, empathetic leadership” were evident in her many academic as well as extra-curricular achievements. Kennedi received awards in Spanish, World History, English, and Science, and she is an AP Scholar with Distinction. A member of her school’s STEM cohort, Kennedi has served for all four years of high school as class representative to the STEM program, which also includes community-based projects and symposia, in addition to coursework in chemistry, physics, calculus, engineering and microbiology. Her junior-year research project investigated the efficacy of sound therapy for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder and hypersensitivity. She also developed a deep love of world history and art history and incorporated these subjects into her rigorous schedule with nine AP classes.
To facilitate and increase discussion of media content centering on marginalized communities, Kennedi co-founded @StayConsciousMedia, hoping to educate and engage her peers in a greater understanding of social justice issues. Kennedi curates the topics, prepares readings, and hosts this group in weekly peer-led (zoom) discussions on themes ranging from race in America to discrimination and erasure of gender and sexuality minorities in Poland. As a minority student in a majority white high school community, Kennedi’s efforts affirm her motto, “If I am to improve the quality of my life, I must amplify my voice instead of worrying about who will try to silence it.” Kennedi’s goal is to improve public health and to expand global health education. Her counselor notes that she “possesses much academic promise and is destined to achieve her goal of designing public health programs that are considerate, equitable, and effective for her community."
2021 — Julia Rademacher-Wedd
Agnes Scott College
The Sunflower Initiative has awarded the 2021 Harriet Fitzgerald Scholarship to Julia Rademacher-Wedd of Chicago, Illinois. Julia graduated in 2020 from the Whitney Young arts magnet high school in Chicago with a superb academic record in honors and AP classes, in addition to coursework in the arts program. After taking a gap year during the Covid-19 pandemic, she will enroll at Agnes Scott College in the Fall of 2021.
Although Whitney Young is an arts magnet, Julia’s balanced course of study included early completion of calculus and plenty of additional work in the sciences, along with history, literature, and politics. In addition to a heavy course load, she still made time for chorus and took the most demanding dance classes offered. She danced 20 hours a week doing choreography and participated on the school’s best competitive dance team. During high school she was so deeply moved by the violations of human rights that she saw during a school trip to the Arizona-Mexico border that she wrote an essay that won an award from the Kemper Human Rights Foundation. She has also won designation as an AP Scholar with Distinction, a National Merit Commended Scholar, and an Illinois State Scholar.
After graduating, Julia explains that she deferred enrollment at Agnes Scott College in order “to support elementary school students who did not have the option to take a gap year while everyone figured it [remote learning] out.” During 2020-2021 she volunteers for Americorps in the public schools, helping fourth-graders with math and social-emotional learning. She also volunteers as Legislative Outreach Coordinator for Parole Illinois, which is devoted to winning parole for people subjected to long-term (often indefinite) incarceration. At Parole Illinois, she moved into leadership quickly, noted by those supporting her enlarged role for her communications skills, wise judgment, and remarkable ease and professionalism. She is eager to start her academic journey at Agnes Scott and pursue her interest in comparative public policy. “During my four years in community at Agnes Scott, I hope to grow in my capability to transform society through compassionate relationships and bold calls for justice.”
2020 — Alena Rooney
The Sunflower Initiative awarded the 2020 Harriet Fitzgerald Scholarship to Alena Rooney of Chicago, Illinois. After graduating from the Chicago Waldorf High School in June 2020, Alena deferred her acceptance at Smith College for a year because of Covid-19. She is now getting ready to enter Smith in the fall in a more normal year when everyone will be vaccinated, and as she says, “I am beyond excited and grateful to have classes in person!” She has had a busy year as a policy intern for a new Illinois non-profit devoted to improving access to contraception, combined with tutoring and babysitting.
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.”
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.”
2018 — Ariana Carranza
Ariana Carranza of Palo Alto, California, enrolled at Barnard College as the 2018 Harriet Fitzgerald Scholar. She continues to take full advantage of her Barnard education while also enjoying the advantages of being a student in New York City. She recently began working at an anesthesiology company and is able to assist in certain procedures, a step toward her goal of becoming a physician.
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.”
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.
2016 — Ilse Meiler
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.
Ilse graduated from Smith virtually in May 2020, and is working as a chemist while she awaits the resumption of entries into the Peace Corps in preparation for an assignment in Kyrgyzstan. She plans to go into the field of translation and simultaneous interpretation with her background in Spanish, French, German, and Russian.
Below, Ilse herself describes winning the Fitzgerald scholarship and her experiences at Smith:
2015 — Emily Moss
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.”
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, 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.”
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 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.”
2012 — Aastha Sharma
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 has a Ph.D. from the Department of Chemistry at the University of Illinois at 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:
Ready to experience what a women’s college has to offer?
- an academic community dedicated to building your self-confidence and leadership skills.
- a place where your opinions are valued and you are encouraged to express them.
- a supportive environment to prepare you for a more abundant life.
The Sunflower Initiative may help give you the resources to get there.