Red Thread Scholarship Award Winners

Irl attends Colorado State University, majoring in Journalism and Media Communication this fall. She came to America three years ago to pursue her dream of becoming a documentary filmmaker and a journalist, leaving her parents and siblings back in Indonesia. Irl is a proud first-generation student and hopes to use her education to highlight stories of minorities and people who are often unseen. In high school, she volunteered as a tutor and mentor in a Sheltered Math class, a class for students who have English as a Second Language. Irl hopes to continue serving the global community in college as well, as a member of the Global Village Residential and Learning Community at Colorado State University.

Ana came to the US with her family from Central America and early on, identified education as critical to the life she wanted. She is proud to be a first-generation college student at Dalton State College, majoring in Biology and continuing her studies in French. With this education, Ana hopes to become a doctor and open her own health clinic. “I just want to help people,” says Ana, “because I understand the struggle and I want to make sure that they get the help they need.

Nyarok attends the University of Nebraska, Lincoln this coming fall, with aspirations of becoming a journalist. She is a first generation American, born from two parents who immigrated to the US from Sudan.  After graduation, Nyarok dreams of using her global identity to aid her in releasing a documentary series highlighting the life of Sudanese people living in America.  Nyarok told us: “There are so many people experiencing misfortune in this world who don’t have the chance to share their life – their reality, I’d just to like to make sure that their story gets told.”

Saran was born and raised in Conakry Guinea, and came to the United States in 2008. “After coming to the United State my family struggled financially, and I knew that education would be my most important tool to succeed,” she says. Saran is passionate about Global Health Issues, and has used opportunities like Model United Nations to raise awareness about mental health and female genital mutilation in developing countries. This fall, Saran will attend Princeton University, with the goal of concentrating in Neuroscience, with certificates in Cognitive Sciences and Global Health and Health Policy.

Bao will be attend the University of Virginia as a first generation this upcoming fall. She is an immigrant from Vietnam, who moved to America at the age of 5. At the age of 16, she joined the fire department and became an Emergency Medical Technician. From providing aid to patients to looking out for one another to learning from different perspectives and most importantly, to not to make assumptions. “There are so many people suffering from all over the world that we sometime overlook simply because we’re better off than most,” she says. Over the next couple of years, Bao will be studying biomedical engineering in hope of creating medicine in the future and fulling her dreams of helping those living without treatment.


Magdalen reflects a truly global background; born in Italy to Ghanaian parents, she is now on her way to Barnard College this fall. She is interested in medicine, saying “I want to become an epidemiologist or pathologist because I want to understand the inner mechanics and complexities of diseases.” While attending Robert E Lee High School in Virginia, Magdalen was President of the Color Guard and President of her church’s Youth Group. One recommendation commented that “When asked to describe herself in three words, Magdalen’s teachers chose these adjectives: open-minded, persistent, and a critical thinker.”

In her application essay, Kimberly wrote: “As a little girl I never thought about my ethnic background…it took me traveling 6, 248 miles away from home to Beijing, China to realize that I was actually different. ” This coming fall, Kimberly will make another long journey, from Los Angeles, CA to Connecticut to attend Weslyan University, to study political science and international relations or global studies. “She is deeply involved with issues, such as restorative justice, women’s rights, and gentrification, impacting the communities with which she identifies”, wrote one of her recommenders – so it’s no surprise that Kimberly aspires to be a civil rights attorney.

Meera Meera currently attends Stanford University. Describes as a “role model of our ideal learner” by her teachers, Meera has demonstrated a love for learning, taking 18 Advanced Placement exams and earning numerous distinctions and honors. In addition to being a serious student, Meera feels a strong connection with her South Indian heritage.  In her application essays, Meera wrote: “Even growing up in the United States, I have an unwavering connection to Indian culture; not only because I actively explore an didentify with my heritage, but also because my knowledge or Carnatic music and Bharatanatyam, south Indian styles of classical singling and dance, connect me a a deeper level.” Meera plans to study biomedical engineering.

Maria currently resides in La Puente, CA and hails from El Salvador.  Her family came to the US to seek treatment for her brother; his 2007 passing inspired Maria’s interest in medicine and serving her community. She was active in her high school’s Speech and Debate club, as well as the Drama club. She attends Pomona College in Claremont, CA. Maria received $1000 and mentoring from Red Thread Foundation Associates.

Yessica stands out as a leader committed to social justice in her community. As someone with a Colombian-Venezuelan background, she will be the first person in her family to attend an American college, and she strongly believes that all people have the right to a higher education. “Unfortunately, some of my peers do not have enough people to help them out, either because they are immigrants or do not have the right information,” she says. For this reason, Yessica is involved in the Student Immigrant Movement, a youth-led, Massachusetts-wide organization that recruits youth, builds youth leadership, and organizes the community. “I would like to see policy be more fair to students,” Yessica explains. “That is why I support the Dream Act.” In addition to her passion for advocacy, Yessica really enjoys writing. A few years ago, she received an Honorable Mention for her essay on perseverance. She was one of only eight award recipients out of a pool of five hundred entrants. “I wrote my essay about my grandmother, a woman who really influenced me. I wrote it from the heart, which is why I think I won the award,” she says. Though she’s interested in majoring in psychology, she plans to continue writing by exploring journalism in college. She also intends to earn a minor in language. Yessica is already fluent in English and Spanish; she plans to study French and Portuguese, as well.

Ope is an immigrant who joined John Hopkins University in the fall of 2013. Ope moved to the United States to live with her aunt after the unfortunate death of her mother. In the US, Ope was accepted into The Steppingstone Foundation program where she pursued her academic studies and was honored to give a commencement speech. Later, she attended The Rivers School in Weston, MA where she was recognized as a MLK scholar. Ope excelled in academics and multiple extra-curricular activities. She led the school’s student council as its President her senior year, participated in the Diversity Club, played field hockey, and worked with the play and musical productions.

Professionally, Ope is passionate about science and medicine. She worked with the Children’s Hospital SCOOP program, Boston University Medical Center, and interned at the Harvard Stem Cell Research Lab. Ope plans to pursue medicine in college. She is excited to join the Red Thread Foundation for Women and looks forward to receiving support from her mentor as she advances at John Hopkins University.

Marilyn is committed to service and human rights. In high school, she founded a local chapter of Vital Voices. The national organization promotes human rights and raises money to support female entrepreneurs. The chapter at Marilyn’s high school invited remarkable speakers from all over the world. Andeisha, an Afghan woman Marilyn met through Vital Voices, left a big impression on her. “She escaped war but went back to her community to give back. Not a lot of women would risk their lives this way,” she said. Marilyn also wants to return to Honduras to serve her community. She has not been back since immigrating to the United States in 2000, but she plans to return to work with Doctors Without Borders. Fluent in English and Spanish, Marilyn is currently studying Chinese. As a first generation college student, Marilyn hopes the Red Thread Foundation will help her to achieve her goal of an international career. “I joined the organization because I like what it stands for,” she said. “I see myself giving back.”

 Esther is a recent immigrant from Guatemala, where her family faced constant violence and insecurity. Arriving in Los Angeles at the age of twelve, she has worked hard to overcome language and cultural barriers. Despite these challenges, Esther has achieved a great deal in the classroom, on the soccer field, and in her community. Coming from a family with no formal education, one of her proudest achievements is getting accepted into college after graduating high school with honors. During high school, Esther demonstrated dedication and leadership. She was captain of the soccer team, founded and volunteered in a Salvadorian American Leadership and Education Fund (SALEF) chapter at her school, and participated in a Life Skills after-school enrichment program. In addition, she served as president of the El Camino Club, which is dedicated to supporting AB540 students through college informational sessions and fundraising.

Esther aspires to a career as a school-based sports trainer so she can engage her passion for sports, encourage student athletes to maintain their academic focus, and change the way people view women in her community. Her motivation to support student athletes only increased after suffering a soccer injury during her last year of school, when she wished she had a trainer to help her get back onto the field. She plans to major in Kinesiology and join the soccer team when she begins classes at California State University, Long Beach this August. She is glad to be a part of Red Thread because she is not going into college alone, but with the support of a group behind her.

Red Thread Mentee Awards

Sarah  entered the University of Rochester as an international student from Iraq. Though the rest of her family fled the war-torn country in 2006 and settled in Jordan, Sarah courageously decided to stay in Baghdad alone to finish her studies at the University of Baghdad’s College of Dentistry. “If I had to do it all over again, I would do it in a heart beat,” she says. Determined to have a positive impact on her community during a difficult time, Sarah worked as a volunteer, advocate, and pro-bono dentist for those in need. She raised funds to support an institute for mentally disabled people, advocated for children’s right to an education, and provided dental work at the college hospital for those unable to afford private clinics. Conscious of gender issues, Sarah also participated in the UN Commission on the Status of Women. “I come from a community that internalizes women and doesn’t give them the chance to be. I thank God that I was brought up differently with a mentality to make a change.”

Sarah intends to combine her interests in public health and gender studies at the University of Rochester before continuing on to graduate school. Her dream is to work with Doctors Without Borders. Sarah strongly believes that an American education will help her to achieve this goal. “One of my proudest accomplishments is starting college in the U.S., because I know that I will have a stronger weapon to face the future and help Iraq get back on its feet.” In fact, she plans to someday return to Iraq as a professor at her college. “I want to be able to change the system and the educational technique that our teachers use in Iraq, which most of the time is out-dated,” she says.

For now, Sarah is excited to join the Red Thread Foundation for Women mentorship program and have community of mentors to talk to about college and academics. However, her vision is larger. Upon completing the program, Sarah hopes to contribute to the Red Thread Foundation in a different capacity and help women like herself overcome obstacles and achieve extraordinary success.

When Yun began classes at the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy in 2012, she was the first person in her family to attend university. Even more remarkable is the fact that Yun learned English only three and half years ago. Since immigrating to the United States from China, Yun has excelled academically and professionally. She participated in Upward Math-Science Bound at Boston University, donated her time as a volunteer at Mass General Hospital, and worked at the Tufts Medical Center. But her proudest achievement is her three weeks of community service in Montana, where she volunteered to build a playground for children at the Blackfeet Indian Reservation.

Despite her extraordinary success, the adjustment has not been easy. Though she speaks Mandarin and Cantonese Chinese, Yun had to learn another language and adapt to a new culture with its diverse traditions. She also overcame a great personal hardship: the loss of her grandfather to uremia. Today, Yun draws on this difficult event for strength and inspiration in her studies. She plans to obtain a bachelor’s degree in Pharmacy Science before continuing on to earn a Doctorate of Pharmacy. Because her grandfather was unable to find a matching kidney for a transplant, Yun hopes that pharmacy science can treat patients medicinally rather than surgically. Her career and life goal is to heal patients like her grandfather.

Yun joined the Red Thread Mentorship Program for support. “As an immigrant and first-generation college student, I wanted someone to talk to about my questions. I am not able to get this far without my teachers, my friends, and my family’s support, so I appreciate the help. I am excited to join the Red Thread Women family to grow with and give back to this program.”

Larissa Reza-Garcia entered the University of Washington as a first-generation college student. Her high school record is remarkable, and she is especially proud of her acceptance to the university. “The admission process at UW was highly competitive this year,” she explains. “I know valedictorians who did not get in… and I am the first person in my family to attend college!” She’s ready and eager to delve into this new experience and get out of her comfort zone. “I want to play basketball, join clubs, and have my voice heard,” she says. Academically ambitious, Larissa demonstrated impressive scholastic achievement at her high school. She not only took the most challenging courses available, but she also participated in the Running Start program, where she enrolled in college classes while still in high school.

Larissa also participates in a variety of sports and enjoys playing basketball, volleyball, and softball. Though she encountered negative cultural stereotypes in her community, she challenged them through sports. “In extracurricular activities I would often see myself as the only Mexican there,” she says. “Many people didn’t view me as a stereotypical Mexican, perhaps because I surrounded myself with a diverse group of peers.” This summer she is volunteering with Chief Sealth Basketball/Life Skills program, working the concession stands and providing first aid to injured players.

Larissa plans to double major in social work and psychology at University of Washington. She’s interested in pursuing a career in social work, focusing on children affected by domestic violence. After earning her bachelor’s degree, Larissa is considering attending law school. “A law degree will really help me to make a difference for people who have been through domestic violence,” she says.

Larissa joined the Red Thread Foundation for Women to give and receive support. “It is a great opportunity to be offered help and support by other women who know what it feels like to go out there in the world. Women can really help other women make something of themselves.”