Islander students empower girls at Kenyan school

Students from Kenya hoping for a chance to attend college include, from left, Honorinah Tole, Maureen Karimi, Faith Nzilani and Hope Lombo.  - Contributed Photo
Students from Kenya hoping for a chance to attend college include, from left, Honorinah Tole, Maureen Karimi, Faith Nzilani and Hope Lombo.
— image credit: Contributed Photo

By Arianna Moscatel and Mary Margaret Welch

Special to the Reporter

In their freshman year, Caroline Dillon, Sara Lindquist, Arianna Moscatel, Ellie Frank and Riley MacAulay started a science club called PETRI (Philanthropy, Education, Teaching, Research and Involvement) to encourage interest in science at MIHS.

The “P” spoke to the girls and Moscatel, Dillon and Lindquist decided to act on the philanthropy part of the mission. They wanted to provide scholarships to girls their age in a developing country. Their faculty sponsor is Mary Margaret Welch, a former MIHS teacher and founder of a nonprofit organization called SEAVURIA. SEAVURIA partners students and teachers in rural Kenya with Seattle-area students and teachers to study issues of global importance together. They use the lens of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) to engage students who are mentored by local global health scientists to share data and share perspectives.

When PETRI heard about the Kenyan schools involved in SEAVURIA, they decided to collaborate to help them find girls in need of scholarships. The PETRI girls are passionate about helping girls in Kenya make their dreams come true through education. Because the girls in both regions are teenagers, they understand the struggles of becoming young adults and learning how to find their place in the world. And in spite of the economic differences, they realized their similarities could inspire friendships and learning.

PETRI decided to help financially support the education of a few girls so they can become doctors, lawyers, athletes or anything they dream of achieving. They want to help because just like the Kenyan girls, these Mercer Island girls have hopes and dreams for their future and believe education will provide opportunities to realize those dreams. In exchange for financial support, PETRI is asking for friendship. They want to make the journey together to build relationships through the stories they share. Maybe someday they will even meet in person.

The scholarship’s name also has a special significance. Last year, PETRI met an inspirational Kenyan woman, Gladys Keitany, Ph.D., here in Seattle. Keitany has a and is researching a cure for pregnancy malaria. She was the first speaker for the PETRI club at MIHS.

Over 150 students came to hear Keitany speak during lunch. They were inspired by Keitany’s story. The scholarship is named after Keitany’s mother, Philomena Kimoi, who died last year just before Keitany defended her dissertation.

Mrs. Kimoi lived in a small village just outside of Eldoret, Kenya. She believed her children would have a better tomorrow through education.

The Mercer Island girls understand the power of education, too. They feel blessed to have grown up in a community with so many opportunities and want to give back and share their blessing.

They will review applications and select girls to receive the scholarships in January. They have earned enough money to support 10 girls and hope to earn even more before the January deadline.

They are excited to develop friendships with the girls in Kenya for years to come.

Learn more

To find out more about scholarships and other programs, go to or contact Mary Margaret Welch at


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