Two outstanding Mercer Island High School seniors were awarded $5,000 college scholarships at the fourth annual Stanley Ann Dunham Scholarship Award Ceremony on April 20, which featured guest speaker Dr. Maya Soetoro-Ng, sister of President Barack Obama and daughter of 1960 Mercer Island High School graduate Stanley Ann Dunham. Mayor Bruce Bassett and Deputy Mayor Dan Grausz addressed a full house at the Community Center, opening the event with a proclamation welcoming Dr. Soetoro-Ng as an honorary Islander.
The Scholarship Fund annually recognizes a MIHS graduating female who demonstrates Stanley Ann Dunham’s commitment to academic achievement, global service and empowering women.
The 17 scholarship applicants treated Soetoro-Ng to a spoken word performance entitled “We believe...” demonstrating how they were inspired by the life and work of Stanley Ann Dunham. Soetoro-Ng told about being homeschooled while traveling with her mother to small Indonesian villages, about the president’s mother’s strong work ethic and “sloppy” housekeeping ways.
“My mother was not perfect, but she was extraordinary, and that is so much better than perfect,” she said.
This year, two scholarships were awarded to Sarah Bahn and Hannah Frisch. Balancing the pressures of school work, a job and volunteering is not easy for any high school student, but Frisch and Bahn have embraced the challenge.
“I think it’s just as important to do things for others as it is to do things to keep myself intact ... I just believe that for those of us who are given so many opportunities, we also need to give to others," said Bahn.
Frisch started in fifth grade helping to prepare and serve food at Operation Nightwatch, a Seattle soup kitchen. Bahn began volunteering in middle school at Hammond House, an emergency women’s shelter.
Last Thanksgiving, Frisch organized a sleeping bag and blanket drive for Survive the Streets, a Seattle homeless shelter. She also works for Real Change, the newspaper that is sold primarily by low-income and homeless people, and is a music tutor for Seattle Music Partners.
One of her students, a 9-year-old girl, taught Frisch an important life lesson.
“I tried to be a mentor to her to give her some kind of stability because she had no other individual role model to look up to. She really opened my eyes, teaching wise. You can’t get through to everyone and a lot of times you just have to do what you can," she said.
Bahn tutors math and reading for Invest in Youth.
“While life gets busy, it doesn’t seem you can just say, ‘I’m too busy to go and teach this kid to read.’ It’s a no brainer for me,” she said. She also had an eye-opening experience working at a teen shelter with her church student leadership group. She was surprised that the shelter kids were far less focused on the differences between them.
“They wanted to be friends and that really put things in perspective for me,” she said.
Mercer Island Printing, Starbucks, QFC, Einstein Bros. Bagels, Mercer Island Florist, Island Books and the City of Mercer Island were important supporters of this year’s event.