Melissa Pere ’23 has dreamed of working in the healthcare field to help children ever since she became ill and had a brush with death at a young age in Kenya. Her father carried her on his back on a long trek to the hospital where she received treatment and recovered. The doctors and nurses who helped her made a lasting impression. Pere, a health science major, plans to work in community health, serving disadvantaged children. “I want to be that person who helps other kids during that moment when families have lost so much hope and they don’t know if their child is going to be okay,” she says. “I can help them with the resources I have.”
Some of the greatest benefits the Whitworth community provides its students are caring connection and meaningful support. When financial hardships hit, the campus community goes into high gear to provide resources students need to stay at Whitworth and thrive. In 2020, when the pandemic struck, the Women’s Leadership Network provided scholarship support to students like Pere who were at risk of leaving Whitworth due to significant financial strain.
Whitworth women created the Women’s Leadership Network in 2019 to develop and cultivate women’s leadership and philanthropy at Whitworth through connections, community and learning experiences. The growing group has created new initiatives and generated donor support, including grant funding for campus programs, that promote the development of women leaders.
In 2020, donors funded nearly $11,000 in grants for initiatives such as providing curriculum materials for Whitworth’s Women in Finance student club, sending women and students of color to diversity leadership and STEM conferences, and a women’s leadership summit through Whitworth for female juniors and seniors in high school. The WLN is making steady progress toward a $50,000 endowment fund.
Long-term plans for the WLN Scholarship are to support the promotion of – and advocacy for – women in leadership at Whitworth and beyond. During the significant challenges of the 2020-21 academic year, the scholarship helped four students, including Pere, persist at Whitworth. Pere, a first-generation college student, says her parents want her to pursue higher education but funds are limited for her family.
“The WLN Scholarship has made it doable to pursue my dream goals – to attend Whitworth and earn my undergraduate degree and go on to graduate school,” Pere says. With the Whitworth community’s support, Pere can fulfill her calling to provide healthcare to children as well as comfort and connection to parents who need their hope restored.