Two who serve others, win Dunham award

Mercer Island High School graduating seniors Ellena Jones and Rachel Gallagher were each awarded $5,000 scholarships at the fifth annual Stanley Ann Dunham Scholarship Award Ceremony on May 3 at the Mercer Island Community and Event Center. Tweleve young women applied for the scholarship.

Stanley Ann Dunham was a 1960 graduate of MIHS and the mother of President Barack Obama. The Scholarship Fund was founded in her memory by friends and fellow classmates and annually recognizes MIHS female graduating students who demonstrate Stanley Ann Dunham’s commitment to academic achievement, serving marginalized communities, and empowering women around the world.

Rachel Gallagher began volunteering as a sophomore to help children with special needs, after reading about a Mercer Island organization called Friendship Circle of Washington.

Realizing the stigma surrounding the special needs students at MIHS, she decided to create a group called “Lunch Buddies” to ensure that these students have companions to eat with at lunch. Her knowledge and passion for others with special needs deepened after she spent a summer at Seattle Children’s Hospital researching autism and assisting patients and their families. Her plans for the future include Carleton College and then medical school where she hopes to make a meaningful difference in the lives of those affected by autism. In her own words, “The marginalizing impact of autism makes it my goal to return to Seattle Children’s someday as a psychiatrist. As I take the next steps towards this dream…I will emulate Stanley Ann by dedicating myself to make a meaningful difference in the lives of those affected by autism.”

Ellena Jones has developed an independence and self-advocacy discipline that has guided her through her life. She has held numerous positions of responsibility in her volunteering activities with Mercer Island Youth and Family Services, Natural Helpers, and Seattle Music Partners in addition to an excellent academic record.

According to her high school counselor, Ellena epitomizes perseverance and strength in the midst of adversity. She has proven to be a natural leader in her musical pursuits as well, acting as section leader and playing saxophone in the Jazz Ensemble. Ellena plans to major in social work in college. “I want to empower others in the way I have had to motivate myself to overcome poverty, foster care and homelessness. I hope to be that mother figure for others, especially children, living in difficult situations.”

Guest speakers included Vulcan Productions Senior Producer Hilary Sparrow and 2001 MIHS graduate alum Sarah Grausz. The ceremony was followed by a screening of the Vulcan Productions film, “Girl Rising”, and a Q&A afterwards with Ms. Sparrow.

Several community organizations stepped up to sponsor and support the scholarship and recognition event. They include:

The Mercer Island Community Fund, Mercer Island Florist, Island Books, Einstein Brothers Bagels, Starbucks, QFC, McCallum Printing, Trophy Cupcakes, and the Mercer Island Community and Event Center.

To learn more about the scholarship and Stanley Ann Dunham go to


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