The 32nd Annual Scholarship Awards Luncheon

By Sandra Camacho

FWSF recognized its 2017 scholarship awardees at a luncheon on June 6, 2017, at the elegant City Club in the heart of San Francisco’s financial district. The stage was set with tables beautifully decorated with colorful floral arrangements and a fabulous luncheon, complete with decadent chocolate tortes. Scholarship Co-Chairs Shelby Duncan and Janeth Medina, both former scholarship recipients, very enthusiastically facilitated the event.

The attendees included former Financial Woman of the Year honorees Debbie Messemer (2016), Carrie Dolan (2015), Pat Yarrington (2013), Rebecca Maciera-Kaufmann (2010) and Marie Berggren (2006). Robin Washington, CFO of Gilead, who has been selected as the 2017 Financial Woman of the Year, kindly hosted a breakfast for the recipients at the City Club the same day. FWSF will recognize Robin on October 6th at FWSF’s 22nd Annual Financial Woman of the Year event at the Hyatt Regency, San Francisco.

Paige Venable, 2017 Financial Women of San Francisco President, announced the 2017 recipient of the $10,000 Lela Jahn Grant: Rani Mavram, a U.C. Berkeley undergraduate student. Veneetha Mumadi, the 2016 recipient of the grant, gave an account of the progress of the program she is spearheading to make the dream of education possible for other young women in India. Veneetha has already funded the education of two girls and is working on a platform to form relationships between other sponsors and recipients.

A total of $90,000 was awarded to the 2017 scholarship recipients. Four undergraduate students received $5,000 each and seven graduate students received $10,000 each. Awards were made possible by the kind generosity of the 2017 Scholarship Luncheon donors and the 2017 Corporate Sponsors.

This year’s awardees are:

Undergraduate Students
Jessica Ceja – California State University, East Bay
Sehar Mansoor – University of San Francisco
Rani Mavram – U.C. Berkeley
Dhyani Parekh – San Jose State University

Graduate Students
Meizhu Deng – San Jose University
Laurel Engbretson – Mills College
Quyen Le – Golden Gate University
Hanna Leen – California State University, East Bay
Akshata Pandit – University of San Francisco
Sam Smith-Eppsteiner – Stanford Graduate School of Business
Carrisa Weir – Mills College

Scholarship Recipients

You could hear a pin drop as this year’s winners took their places at the podium to tell their stories. Most grew up in an environment that involved financial or personal struggle and sometimes both. Many of the winners described the inconsistencies they had observed in the world during their travels or experience. It seemed without question that what they all have in common is that they found the inner strength and fortitude to not only overcome and conquer, but also to excel in their pursuit of an education and career while not forgetting to give back. Their stories will be shared once more at the Financial Woman of the Year luncheon. Read further below for their invaluable perspective of the events of the scholarship luncheon day.

Shelby Duncan, a 2012 scholarship recipient talked about her work in Uganda, sub-Saharan Africa, where she helped establish a platform to help grandparents fund the education of children whose parents died from the AIDS epidemic. Shelby continues to be very involved with the Financial Women of San Francisco organization and embodies its core values.

As part of their award, the scholarship recipients are eligible to be mentored by FWSF volunteers. Julia Kneische and Kristina Hentschel chair the Scholarship Mentoring Committee. Mentors introduced themselves to their mentees after the luncheon. Former mentors also shared their experiences in the program, commenting that the experience is often a positive for both mentors and mentees alike.

Click here for more about the 2017 Awardees.

The reviews…

We asked the scholarship recipients “What is most memorable to you about the events of the scholarship luncheon day?”

"I am new to the Bay Area and come from a small town. It was remarkable to be in a room full of successful individuals and realize that they are all there because they want to see me succeed. I felt incredibly supported and excited to join this community." ~ Hanna Leen

“The most memorable thing to me about the events of the luncheon was having my Dad in the audience listening to my speech. It was really special to have him there to celebrate this milestone with me. Moreover, the encouragement and kindness received from the other attendees at the luncheon was very special and heartfelt.” ~ Dhyani Parekh

“The most memorable event was meeting Robin Washington and having breakfast with her. She was extremely approachable and candid. The insights she gave on numerous topics from managing work, life, office politics and what is required to succeed were very helpful. I never had an opportunity to have a one-on-one discussion with a successful financial woman; her journey was very inspirational for women like me who see her as a role model.

The other memorable thing was listening to my fellow recipients speak about their journey. It made me realize that we all have a story to tell and all of us have our battle to fight, but these battles have shaped all of us. It was great to see the drive and spirit amongst the recipients. I am certain that all of us will make FWSF and the community in general very proud by our professional and social/public aspiration for the betterment of society.”
~ Akshata Pandit

“In response to the question, getting to know the fellow scholarship recipients was most memorable to me. I had the chance to meet and hear the stories of 10 women over the course of the day. We all took different paths, but converged at a point in time. Looking forward to keeping in touch with them.” ~ Carissa Weir

“What was most memorable to me about the FWSF luncheon on June 6, 2017, was the professional, friendly environment as well as the values shared in this organization. We kicked off the day with a breakfast with Robin Washington, CFO of Gilead. She impressed me so much, showing that a woman can be successful in many ways while still being her authentic self. Robin is an outstanding example of dedication, caring and authentication as a human being. Having a conversation with her has helped me see how successful women can apply their knowledge to lead their lives. The conversation helped show me how to take initiative and how to achieve sustainable success.

In addition, among many great values associated with the FWSF organization, the leadership style reflected through people in FWSF has impressed me the most. For instance, I will always remember the moment that our president, Paige Venable, along with Janeth and Shelby, set up the luncheon room and pinned flowers on the scholarship recipients’ blazers. From my perspective, these actions represented the image of leaders who eat last. Being alone without family during the event was scary for me. However, seeing the dedication of people in this organization has encouraged me to step up and capture a moment that I will forever value in my life. I want to thank all the people in the organization as well as all the sponsors who have brought this precious memory to me, confirmed my beliefs, and provided a great environment for me to develop myself to be the best I can be.” ~ Quyên Lê

"It's not every day that you are surrounded by inspirational women who have incredible resilience. I could not be more grateful to meet with women who make me want to work harder each and every single day. My favorite moment was listening to the speeches — each one gave me a new definition of leadership and added a new dimension of vulnerability. Additionally, as a woman in both business and tech, I cannot emphasize what it means to have a room full of support. It is moments like these that remind me that, despite the hardship and triumph, hard work will persevere!" ~ Rani Mavram

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