NORTHAMPTON, Mass. – Incoming first-year student Keturah "Kerah" Williams faced stiff odds early this year when she applied not just to Smith College but also to the National Symphony Orchestra Music Institute summer program.
Williams competed against nearly 3,000 other applicants to earn one of 65 seats in the all-expenses paid program. She learned of her acceptance to the music institute in early March, and her acceptance to Smith in April.
The month-long program in Washington, D.C., seemed a natural fit for the home-schooled student from Little Rock, Ark., who spent her final year of high school playing professionally with her state’s symphony orchestra and the past three years volunteering as a therapeutic violinist at the local Hospice Home Care Inpatient Center.
As it turned out, the program also affirmed her choice of Smith. When Carole Wysocki, director of the National Symphony Orchestra Education Program, asked Williams about her college decision, the incoming first-year learned she was in good company. “I am a Smithie!,” Wysocki told her.
Williams is among some 687 talented, high-achieving and vibrant first-year students, and an additonal 100 transfer and non-traditional age students, who will enter Smith in the fall of 2009. In all, 4,011 students applied to Smith’s Class of 2013. In addition to Williams, the college’s newest students include the following notable young women.
Zahraa Khalil Al-Janab of Montezuma, N.M.
Zahraa “Zizo” Khalil Al-Janab finished high school at Armand Hammer United World College (U.W.C.) in New Mexico after previously attending Al-Haririy High School, an all-girls’ school, in Baghdad. In commenting on life in Iraq, where her home was bombed three times, Al-Janab noted, “because of the violence, my education was interrupted on a daily basis. Teachers and students were threatened. Eventually teachers fled Iraq, leaving untrained teaching assistants in charge.” While there were no extracurricular opportunities for students in Iraq, Al-Janab quickly got involved in her community in the United States, working at a homeless shelter in Los Angeles and organizing and leading seminars about current events in Iraq.
Sabrina Baxter of Chapel Hill, N.C.
Sabrina Baxter’s interest in science and medicine has only grown with her continued exposure to the field of biology. After witnessing both her mother’s and her sister’s bouts with vertigo, Baxter felt compelled to begin researching long-term solutions for it. Her self-created independent research project “The Use of Zebrafish to Model the Treatment of BPPV (vertigo) with Antioxidants” won regional and state science fair awards. Since last summer, Baxter has worked as a research technician at a University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill Pathology Lab for Nobel Prize winner Oliver Smithies. Her goal, says Baxter, is “to continue my research and expand it to other aspects, including genetics.”
Elizabeth Breeden of London, England
Elizabeth Breeden remembers exactly what age she started baking: 8. “And still find it a relaxing hobby,” she added. However, Breeden goes beyond baking “boring old cupcakes” to “literary-themed cakes.” Her creations meld her passion for baking with her passion for reading and have included such notables as an edible miniature Stonehenge and sponge cake fingers and eyeballs. Breeden plans to major in English and, in preparation for the start of college, worked her way through “The Big Read,” a list of 100 books recommended by the BBC.
Emily Goose of Fredericksburg, Va.
For her senior exhibit, Emily put together a cookbook titled “Ingredients for Peace: Cooking with Global Peacemakers,” a compilation of favorite recipes from world leaders on the subject of peace, including Desmond Tutu, Mia Farrow, and Goose’s own stepmother, Jody Williams, who is a Nobel Peace Prize winner. In addition to the recipes, the cookbook includes a biography on each contributor, in which Goose details the individual’s efforts to advocate for world peace. Goose designed the book’s cover and contents and is self-publishing it. It will be available for sale in mid-August at lulu.com and Nobel Women's Initiative.
Nomindari Goulden, a dual citizen of the United States and Mongolia, from Rutledge, Pa.
Nomindari Goulden’s dual citizenship allows for a unique experience. She has resided in the U.S. since she was 4 years old but returns to her home country as a nomadic herder every summer. Goulden’s captivating personal essay is a graphic description of the slaughter and feast of a sheep with her relatives in Mongolia. “I have been given a truly rare opportunity of being able to study in the most powerful country in the world but then return to one of the weakest,” said Goulden. “Accordingly, I have an appreciation for two different worlds – one with my cell phone, I-Pod, and Ugg boots and another where I am equipped with a sleeping bag and, sadly to say, a few lice.”
Julie Melnick of Columbia, Md.
While Julie Melnick describes herself as “geeky,” one of her teachers describes her as “gifted and talented.” However, her self-study of quantum physics, her passion for foreign languages, her enjoyment of international music, her leadership in the Gay/Straight Alliance, and her published science fiction novel would suggest that “versatile” may be a better adjective to describe Melnick.
Joanita Gakami of Kenya
Joanita Gakami’s mother is HIV positive, a fact that undoubtedly influenced Gakami’s involvement with Maasai Education Discovery Mentoring Camp. As a mentor, she helped to “empower young Maasai women to deal with issues facing them: avoiding and/or dealing with female genital mutilation and the early forced marriages which follow it and caring for HIV/AIDS-positive parents without catching the disease.” Her own experience being raised by an HIV-positive mother was riddled with financial difficulty, and she almost found herself quitting school after she was unable to pay school fees. Gakami has since been sponsored by an American couple, and she is transferring to Smith from Cape Cod Community College. After growing up as “a typical Maasai girl,” Gakami says she wants to pursue the study of law “so that I can advocate for the rights of abused women and children, particularly those of the Maasai tribe.”
Germaine Nendah of Cameroon
Germaine Nendah has a remarkable life story. She grew up in Cameroon, endured the death of her father at the age of 7 and was forced to leave her village. Nendah’s mother was an outcast in the village because she belonged to a different tribe and she violated the village norms by sending her to school. “Women were not allowed to go to school under any circumstance,” said Nendah. In recent years, Nendah worked as a nanny and volunteered for the Red Cross in her village, then moved to the U.S. with dreams of becoming a doctor. She transferred from Montgomery College after being a part of their Honors Program and the valedictorian for the class of 2009.
Ngozika Onuzo of Nigeria
Ngozika “Ngozi” Onuzo will be the third of three daughters in her family to attend Smith. Her oldest sister, Chijindu, graduated in 2005 and her other sister, Uchenna, entered Smith later that year. Uchenna finished her studies in 2009, and in a short few months Ngozi will be on campus. Ngozi has been in the U.S. for one year and is transferring from Utica College.
Smith College educates women of promise for lives of distinction. One of the largest women’s colleges in the United States, Smith enrolls 2,800 students from nearly every state and 62 other countries.