The Junior League of Dallas believes when Women "LEAD," something good can happen. And it did for 10 Dallas ISD students.
Young women from Conrad, Thomas Jefferson and South Oak Cliff high schools were finalists in the Junor League's ninth annual Women LEAD scholarship competition. LEAD stands for "Learn. Excel. Achieve. Dream."
The last step in the competition was a speech. And from there, the judges determined the winners.
All 10 got scholarship money, but the $15,000 first place prize went to Jessica Ramirez, a senior at Thomas Jefferson.
"In the moment, I was very shocked. They announced second place. And so that only left first place, and I realized I won. And, I didn't quite believe it at first," Ramirez said as she talked about the financial burden on her and her parents that is now lightened.
The scholarship committee scored applications based on academic performance, resume, letters of recommendation, transcript and an essay. For the oratory competition on Wednesday, March 30, the students were given a prompt about professional tennis player Naomi Osaka's decision to leave the French Open and how she prioritized her mental health and maintained her position, despite criticism from the media, the league and other players.
The students spoke about the challenges they've faced that affected their mental health and how they led themselves to where they are today.
Ramirez's essay and speech focused on "breaking the Latino narrative. How all Latina women really face the challenges of society, their expectations of us or the stereotypes they put on us. And it's about me not wanting to follow that path."
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Ramirez will leave Dallas and head to Boston University in the fall.
"I really wanted to be in a college in a city and to explore a lot more than what I have in my life right now, and it offered me the major I wanted to study, which is electrical engineering.
"It is so special. It warms my heart to heart what Jessica is going to do with these funds. And how she is going to pursue her dream of engineering," said Junior League President Christa Sanford, who also majored in engineering before going on to become a patent attorney. "It just brings a smile to my face when I hear that women are getting into STEM."
Honorable mention winners Rayven Foreman, Jennifer Sanchez, Elizabeth Oyinwola, Tha Iang, and Jonteria Jackson each received a $1,000 scholarship. Fifth place winner Imzadi Diaz won a $2,000 scholarship; fourth place winner Rosa Tejada won a $3,000 scholarship; third place winner Karah Johnson won a $5,000 scholarship; and second place winner Lesley Martinez won a $10,000 scholarship with Ramirez awarded the $15,000 Women LEAD scholarship.
Founded in 2013 by the JLD, the Women LEAD scholarship program was created to assist female high school students in pursuing their dreams of higher education and to create opportunities for future women leaders. Since the program began, the League has awarded 62 scholarships totaling $305,000 to female seniors from these three area high schools.