Six scholars honored by Stanley Ann Dunham Scholarship Fund

Young women — including two from MIHS — receive scholarships.

At an event focused on empowering young women leaders, Mercer Island High School (MIHS) students Karen Zhang and Mayen Nkposong stood strong as two of the scholarship recipients of the Stanley Ann Dunham Scholarship Fund on May 11 during an award ceremony at the Island high school.

Also celebrated for their achievements with scholarships were Rainier Beach High School’s Cassie Au and Ilham Mohamed, and Chief Sealth High School’s Sumaya Abdi and Samantha Scaia. All six scholars received $5,000 awards.

“The Stanley Ann Dunham Scholarship Fund is more than just financial aid; it’s an investment in the future,” said Michelle Flowers-Taylor, Ed.D. “As board chair, it fills me with pride to honor Dr. Dunham’s legacy of education, activism and global citizenship. For our scholarship winners, it’s a recognition of their own potential to be changemakers. This award empowers them to pursue their dreams and become the leaders and active citizens our world needs.”

Dr. Maya Soetoro, who is the daughter of Dr. Dunham, spoke about leadership, education and global citizenship at the event. This trio of values embodies the Mercer Island-based fund’s mission as embraced by Dr. Dunham, a MIHS alumna and anthropologist.

In part of her keynote speech, Soetoro shared this crucial insight with the crowd: “These young women have a deep pioneering spirit and they embody the lessons, the love, the attitude and the mindset of my mother and by doing so they extend my mother’s life and I’m so grateful and so proud to have you as a forever family.”

The event featured a welcome message from MIHS Associate Principal Erica Hill, and her fellow Islanders discussed what it means to receive the scholarship.

Both Zhang and Nkposong said they feel grateful to have earned the award and that it’s been an inspiring, motivating and amazing experience being involved with the fund.

Along with Dr. Dunham’s aforementioned values, Zhang said that other key components are a renewed commitment to fostering understanding and connecting with diverse communities.

“This fund is crucial to representing the unrepresented women and people of color who strive to create impacts in their community, and it is a step toward shifting the paradigm to create a more equitable and representative world,” said Zhang, who plans on majoring in computer science in college or becoming a cross-cultural doctor specializing in rural communities.

Nkposong said that in a seemingly slow and stagnant world to bring about social progress, the Dr. Dunham fund represents a willingness to persevere and uplift women. She’s gained inspiration from Dr. Dunham’s work to empower rural and minority communities worldwide.

She plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree in data science in college, and noted that the field, “has been plagued by unethical biases that notably cause cases of racist facial recognition software. Only 4.2% of data scientists are Black, and an even lower number of them are Black women. The lack of representation and diversity within this field is what leads to cases of gross negligence like this, and I want to dispel that.”

Key quotes from scholarship recipients

Au: “I believe that every human being deserves the opportunity to receive healthcare. The Stanley Ann Dunham Scholarship will help me earn a degree and eventually expand access to healthcare.”

Mohamed: “As I prepare to become a nurse, I can build a better experience for marginalized communities. As I maneuver through the healthcare industry post-grad, I will uphold ethics and integrity.”

Abdi: “My multicultural upbringing has shaped me into a culturally aware individual, driving me forward. I look forward to bringing my values and connecting with students from similar and different backgrounds.”

Scaia: “My passion for the well-being and safety of others has led me to pursue this (pre-public health) path, and I look forward to expanding my knowledge to work with diverse communities.”

For more information about the Dr. Dunham fund, visit: