Current Scholars

mastercard foundation scholars

Wellesley welcomes new Mastercard Foundation Scholars

Above photo: Scholars show their pride during the Mastercard Foundation Day of Service

The following Mastercard Foundation Scholars have joined the Class of 2021


Adhel Geng '22

Standard Secondary School, Wau, South Sudan

Bridge 2 Rwanda Scholars

Academic Interests: Public Health, Women’s and Gender Studies 

Adhel received Best Female Student upon final review and was second in class after the top male student. She was a debate club member and radio station newscaster. Her teachers are impressed with her ability to excel, to develop innovative solutions and feel that she is the brightest scholar to come from South Sudan in the last several years.

Noella Ghislaine Ingabire '22

Lycée Notre Dame de Cîteaux, Kigali, Rwanda

SHE-CAN Scholars

Academic Interests: International Relations and Economics 

Noella founded the Francophone Club, was a member of the debate team, played basketball, and participated in the National Science Fair. One mentor highlighted her global mindset and unwavering motivation in addition to her poise; bright intellect and unique desire to learn languages.

Josephine Awino Odhiambo '22

Aga Khan Academy, Mombasa, Kenya

Academic Interests: Environmental Studies and African Studies

Awino pursued the most demanding curriculum in the IB Diploma program while engaging in multiple extracurricular pursuits. She enrolled in a permaculture training class to gain insight into agricultural practices. One teacher expressed that Awino is a mature open-minded critical thinker with great self-management skills.  


Etsegenet Seleshi Tsega '22

BeteSeb Academy, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

African Leadership Academy (ALA)

Academic Interests: Health Science

Etsegenet became passionate about healthcare; and engaging with and helping people through her research on obstetric fistula. Her teachers have stated that Etsegenet is able to comprehend abstract, complex and challenging concepts. She is intensely curious, affable and an integral part of any community.

Class of 2021 Mastercard Foundation Scholars


shukriShukri Ahmed Ali ’21 hopes to become the first Somali woman to participate in a Mars Mission and landing.

Shukri, who was born in Hargeysa, Somalia, and has 11 brothers and sisters, has overcome tremendous barriers in her pursuit of an education. She defied cultural expectations and secretly took an entrance exam for an English-medium boarding school in her home country of Somalia. After her family forbade her to enroll, her grandmother intervened and Shukri was able to attend Abaarso School, where she joined one of her country's first female soccer teams and was inducted into her school's first class of National Honor Society graduates. She also created an astronomy club and became the first student from her country to do a yearlong exchange program in the US, at a public school in Massachusetts, where she learned about Wellesley. Shukri feels that everyone, regardless of gender or family background, deserves a life filled with the basic necessities, including education; and her ultimate goal is to make this a reality for her fellow Somalis. She also plans to contribute to the growing field of learning centered on our Universe.

Priscilla Oluwakemi Badusi ’21 plans to explore the area of pharmacology to further serve the people of Nigeria.

Born and raised in Nigeria, Priscilla was able to enroll in the Federal Government Academy (Centre for the Gifted and Talented) Ondo, Nigeria. Her teachers emphasized her exceptional natural ability plus an eagerness to learn. She excelled in English, physics, and economics and was honored as second best graduating senior. Priscilla participated in many interschool, interstate, and national competitions. At the Pan African Olympiad for girls she emerged in second place for the Niger State. She was also an influential and active member of the Press Club, HIV/AIDS Club, and the Library Club, and Red Cross Society volunteer. As a woman, she feels that she is uniquely prepared to make a meaningful contribution in the real world; and as a strategic thinker she would like to read her environment and navigate challenges with a new course of action.  She plans to pursue Biological Chemistry and Economics at Wellesley.

Irene Ingabire ’21 brings her motivational spirit and leadership abilities to Wellesley and beyond.

From Kamembe, Rwanda, Irene credits her late mother’s example with instilling in her a passion for learning and achieving a post secondary degree. She has a creative thoughtful manner and eagerness to learn, coupled with the ability to motivate and organize. Serving as Class President for three years, she led her class to 100% success in the National Exams. She also participated in the Catholic School Choir and helped serve as caretaker at home. In her country, most women do not go to college, but often get married after high school. Irene was determined to focus on social growth and spirituality, and with the assistance of the local nuns, created a program for her fellow graduates. Under Irene’s guidance, they learned that they could impact their society in a positive manner, that seeking help from others was a learning experience, and that they could connect in their everyday lives for the future. Irene also joined the Bridge 2 Rwanda Program to prepare for applying to enrolling in colleges abroad.

Shukri, President Johnson, YeukaiYeukai Songore ’21 embraced her high school’s vision of empowering students to further their studies and to giving back to their communities.

Born in Harare, Zimbabwe, Yeuki’s high school teachers say her natural leadership and outstanding interpersonal skills enhanced her preparedness and made her a favorite among peers. She received a scholarship to the Makomborero Zimbabwe A-level Scholarship Programme in 2014, which allowed her to enroll at Gateway High School, a top private boarding school in Zimbabwe. She is drawn to Wellesley because of its limitless educational options, as well as dance, music, and singing groups, including Yanvalou. She hopes her strong sense of self will allow her to evolve and learn so she can bring her new strengths back to her community.
Photo: Yeukai (right) with Wellesley President Paula Johnson and classmate Shukri.

Class of 2020 Scholars

Dagmawit Libanos Assefa ’20, who invented a rocket propulsion system, continues her love and curiosity of and commitment to science

Dagmawit, who was born and raised in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, attended the Lideta Catholic Cathedral School. Committed to intellectual curiosity, science—particularly physics and mathematics—and research are important to her. Her love and curiosity of this field grew as she progressed through secondary school, and at Lideta she invented a rocket propulsion system.  She feels that her passion for physics and science education will help her to effect change in her country, and that opportunities at Wellesley will support her desire to assume her responsibility to society.

Christine Oginga ’20, a geography aficionado, hopes to ultimately effect change in Kenyan education initiatives

From Kisumu, Kenya, Christine Oginga's outstanding academic performance led her to a scholarship to the Aga Khan Academy in Mombasa, which recognizes students with gifted leadership potential. At Wellesley, Christine is undecided about her major but plans to focus on human or urban issues, and further pursue her interest in cinema and media studies as well as theatre arts. After graduating from Wellesley, her goal is to provide quality education to talented students from a lower economic background, as well as influence change in Kenyan education initiatives.

Sandra OhemengSandra Amponsah Ohemeng ’20 remains passionate about the combination of education and healthcare

Sandra, who is from Konogo, Ghana, attended Yaa Asantewaa Girls' Senior High School in Ghana, a school established by the Ghanaian President to inspire excellence in young women who wish to become leaders in their community and in Ghana. After witnessing a teacher’s epileptic seizure and resulting mistreatment due to misinformation, Sandra researched this neurological disorder, as well as cofounded the Premiere Youth Network, which advocated for youth to engage in community building. She is passionate about the combination of education and healthcare and aspires to be a medical doctor who is a change-maker for her home country.

Class of 2019 Mastercard Foundation Scholars

Nomaqhawe “Gwen” Ncube ’19, envisions herself as a vocal proponent of educational access in Zimbabwe, particularly for girls, and an advocate for women’s rights

Nomaqhawe “Gwen” Ncube ’19, who attended Mpopoma High School in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, excelled in science, in part because she enjoyed proving her teachers wrong. As a result, she is a success in a traditionally male-dominated field. What started out as a practical reason has become a true passion for Gwen, and she looks forward to studying science in conjunction with social sciences in preparation for returning to Zimbabwe to improve the lives of her countrymen. She envisions herself as a vocal proponent of educational access in Zimbabwe, particularly for girls, and an advocate for women’s rights.

Halle Rubera ’19 hopes to combine her interests in computer science and international relations

Halle Rubera ’19 is a Rwandan citizen who graduated from the Kenya High School in Nairobi. She led several debate teams to the national championship and speaks English, French, Swahili and the native language of Kinyarwanda. After college graduation, Halle dreams of combining her interests in computer science and international relations. She’s also interested in social justice. One of her goals is to create computer applications that can provide students with high-quality learning—something that would benefit schoolchildren in many parts of Africa today. 

Belyse Inamahoro ’19 aspires to become a journalist—to both inform and engage the community and to empower youth

Belyse Inamahoro ’19, a citizen of Burundi, attended schools in Burundi and Rwanda, and participated in the Bridge2Rwanda Scholars Program. Her college counselor said, “I will not be surprised if Belyse is Burundi’s president or first lady one day; her poise and beauty on both the inside and out sparkle like a precious gem.” At Wellesley, Belyse wants to study media arts and sciences and work at the Wellesley’s Children’s Center. Her goal is to become a journalist, as she sees the media as a way to both inform and engage the community as well as to empower youth. Her long-term dream is to be able to create a media medium that provides women and children with a place to express themselves, learn from their struggles, and supplement their education.

Ngina Kariuki ’19 has an interest in using technological innovation in the farming industry, especially in rural communities

Ngina Kariuki ’19, who lives on the edge of Nairobi, graduated from Maryhill Girls’ High School in Thika, Kenya. There, in addition to being named valedictorian, she earned numerous awards in national math and science competitions. Ngina is passionate about women's rights and hopes that soon families in her home country will celebrate their daughters' academic success in the same way they celebrate marriages. However, she believes that addressing poverty is a necessary first step toward this goal, and hopes that technology will offer opportunities in vocational training and education access. Ngina has a particular interest in using technological innovation in the farming industry, especially in rural communities. She hopes to pursue computer science or environmental studies in college and would also like to study another language.

Class of 2018 Mastercard Foundation Scholars

mastercard scholarsFrom the Class of 2018: Mebatsion Gebre, Sarah Nzau, and Lisa Luka from Zimbabwe.

Mebatsion (“Meba”) Gebre ’18 hopes to help Ethiopians learn how to use energy resources more effectively

Mebatsion (“Meba”) Gebre ’18 comes from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. There she won a highly competitive scholarship to the International Community School of Addis Ababa, where she spent her high school years. She was involved with a number of activities, including theater and Model Union. Meba plans to pursue chemistry, astronomy, and engineering while at Wellesley with the goal of returning to Ethiopia to work in the energy sector. She believes Wellesley will help her “aim higher” in her life goals and inspire her to do great things.

Lisa Luka '18 would like to become a neurosurgeon and hopes to work with UN charities

Lisa Luka ’18 lives in Harare, Zimbabwe. A standout high school student, Lisa attended the Hellenic International Academy, where she won the Resolve and Determination Award. Her gift for mathematics made her a valuable member of the school quiz team and science Olympiad team. She wants to become a neurosurgeon, as she is fascinated by biology and the way that biology and chemistry labs are designed. Lisa also hopes to work with United Nations charities and employ her research abilities to work for cures for AIDS, cancers, and other life-threatening diseases around the world. 

Sarah Nzau '18 plans to study biochemistry and return to Kenya to work in the pharmaceutical industry

Sarah Nzau ’18 is from Mombasa, Kenya. She graduated from Memon High School in 2013 and placed 25th in the nation on the countrywide KCSE exams. After graduating, she completed a year-long internship with the Equity Bank of Kenya, one of the largest banks on the continent. Sarah plans to study biochemistry at Wellesley with an interest in chemical engineering. Ultimately, she wants to return to Kenya to work in the pharmaceutical industry while promoting the importance of female leadership.

Class of 2017 Mastercard Foundation Scholars

Martha Khalayi AywaMartha Khalayi Aywa '17 hopes to improve access to healthcare in Kenya

Martha Khalayi, a MasterCard Foundation Scholar from Emmabwi, Kenya, graduated from Moi Girls High School. Her future goal is to improve access to healthcare for people in need. The closest hospital near her home is 20 kilometers away. "From my summer internship, I feel even more interested in healthcare access, especially for people with lower incomes and lower knowledge levels. I plan to get more exposure in the healthcare and research field."

At Wellesley, she is interested in Spanish, biology, and chemistry—two of which will be her majors, and she hopes to travel to Latin America or Spain for an immersion program.  "I am pursuing my interest in other cultures by talking to people about their cultures and sharing mine, as well as by studying Spanish, which I really enjoy. As a member of the Slater International Organization, I get to meet people from different countries and states and learn more about their cultures. I also enjoy service and have been on service project trips to New York and New Orleans, where I also got to explore these US cities and their rich cultures." 

Refilwe KotaneRefilwe Kotane '17 aims to be among South Africa's strong-willed female leaders

MasterCard Foundation Scholar Refilwe hails from Pretoria, South Africa. At school she was a debater, an athlete, and the president of the Generation Earth Club. Refilwe, who was particularly attracted to Wellesley because of the College's history of developing female leaders, wrote, "South Africa is ready for strong-willed, innovative female leadership, and I am confident that with the right undergraduate education, I will be able to claim this responsibility."

She says, "I am now set on majoring in neuroscience and minoring in philosophy. Furthermore, I am interested in pharmaceuticals and business, and would like to work in the pharmaceutical industry in South Africa. Also, because of the great professors at Wellesley, I have taken a special interest of philosophy, especially philosophy of the mind.

"What I might tell prospective MasterCard applicants is that being a MasterCard student at Wellesley provides the unique opportunity to be a part of a small community of extremely driven individuals who use their diverse experiences and passion for the betterment of the African continent to excel academically and in other parts of their lives." Photo: Refilwe with her friend Mashadi Kekana (left), a Wellesley sophomore from South Africa who is majoring in psychology.

Martha and Refilwe reflect on their first semester at Wellesley.

Wellesley looks forward to welcoming these promising, talented young African women to Wellesley, where they will pursue their intellectual passions and curiosities through a liberal arts education. We will ask them to think critically about the needs of Africa and how they can make a difference.  Beyond the classroom, students will have the chance to develop their leadership skills through participation in student organizations, service projects, and internships. They will emerge with the expertise and preparation to become the future women leaders on the continent of Africa.