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Past Pinnacle scholarship winners: Where are they now?

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Each year during the Athena Pinnacle Awards, Athena awards five scholarships and a Gateway (NYSE: GTW) computer to outstanding female high school students who are interested in pursuing a career in math or the sciences. These highly qualified young women continue to amaze us with their accomplishments and activities.

In order to stay in contact with the scholarship winners, the UCSD Athena Internship Assistance Program was born. We contacted all the past scholarship winners to see where they are now, what they are studying, what field they hope to pursue after graduation and to ask if they would like assistance from an Athena member in finding a summer internship. The response has been very positive and has already led to the coordination of an internship this summer with Athena corporate sponsor Knobbe, Martens, Olsen & Bear LLP.

If your company is interested in having an outstanding summer intern, other past scholarship winners have expressed interest in areas such as biotech, pharmaceuticals, medical research and law. These are extremely qualified young women who have much to offer. For more information, contact Athena Executive Director Jeanine Jacobson at (858) 964-1342 or via e-mail at jljacobson@ucsd.edu.

Vera Trofimenko: In her own words

The six months that have passed since I was honored as one of the winners of the UCSD Athena Scholarship have been the busiest and the most exciting period of my life. Last September I moved to New York City where I began college as a freshman at Columbia University. Currently, my major is environmental biology, and I may also choose to minor in economics.

So far, I have taken advantage of the broad range of academics offered by enrolling in diverse classes such as physics and twentieth century Spanish literature. I have attended several meetings for students considering pre-med and listened to lectures of visiting speakers on current environmental issues. I am also working part-time at the Columbia Law Library, where I translate Russian materials and help with ordering books from Russian publishers for the Department of International Affairs.

Aside from academics, I enjoy the vast array of extracurricular activities offered both by Columbia and New York City. I pursue my love for writing and the arts by being a staff member of the university's daily newspaper, working as a journalist for the campus arts section.

I have become a regular at the Metropolitan Museum, and my friends and I frequently attend classical and jazz music concerts. At school, I am on the Ballroom Dance Team, with which I rehearse, travel and compete regularly.

Afterword: Trofimenko mentioned in her reply that she is very interested in becoming a patent lawyer, so we thought whom better to connect her with than Athena member AnneMarie Kaiser, a patent lawyer at Knobbe, Martens, Olson & Bear LLP. Kaiser approached her colleagues with the idea and after reviewing Trofimenko's extensive credentials, and offered her a summer internship. This partnership will surely benefit both Trofimenko and Kaiser's firm.

Van Thuy Nguyen: 1999 UCSD Athena Scholarship Winner

School: Yale University

Major: History

Extracurricular activities: Student Recruitment Coordinator, Yale Office of Undergraduate Admissions; Research Assistant, History Department under Professor Ben Kiernan; Intern, San Diego Public Defender's Office; Administrative Assistant, Yale Debate Association; Extern, Stand for Children

Biggest accomplishment: Coming to a closer understanding of my cultural and individual identify. This was accomplished through my classes, ethnic organizations and friends. This understanding is not complete. However, I have come to a better understanding and pride in who I am.

Mentor: "During high school, my mentor was my biology teacher, Dr. Neil Biggart. However, my life mentor has really been my older sister, Vi Nguyen. Currently a third-year med student at Harvard, my sister has always been ready with patience, advice, support and endless love. Her brilliance and beauty stand as a clear example of what I want to emulate. We both, however, would never be able to achieve anything if it was not for our parents who have sacrificed so much to bring us to the United States.

Career goals: I ultimately want to have a career in law. Exactly what, I'm not sure. I have taken classes on "Computers and Law" at Yale which sparked my interest in information technology. However, I am strongly driven to serve as a public servant, either by working for the State Department or entering criminal law.

My goals have changed since I won the UCSD Athena Scholarship. Because my high school experience was so narrow, my goals were also very narrow. Since coming to Yale, I've discovered an entire world that was non-existent before. The effect has opened the entire world to me, leaving me utterly confused but open minded to my future.

Impact of Athena: Winning this scholarship helped making attending Yale a reality. More importantly, through the Athena Scholarship, I was introduced to a number of strong, independent women who succeeded in their respective fields, overcoming discrimination and adversity. That has served as inspiration for my own life. If I work hard enough and dream long enough, maybe I will be able to achieve a similar success to the amazing women I have met through Athena.

Melissa Morelos: 2001 UCSD Athena Scholarship Winner

School: Stanford University

Major: Biology or Human Biology

Extracurricular activities: Working with children

Biggest accomplishment: Taking some difficult courses and being challenged to a painful degree at times. I learned how to deal with schoolwork, and living on my own.

Mentor: The members of my family have guided me and supported me throughout life.

Career goals: I want to enter medical school after graduation and eventually become an oncologist.

Impact of Athena: Without the scholarship from Athena, I would have needed to work my first year. The scholarship has allowed me to have the first year to adjust to college life, especially the academic side and being away from family.

Erin Scott: 1999 UCSD Athena Scholarship Winner

School: University of California, Berkeley

Major: Molecular and Cell Biology, with an emphasis in Genetics

Extracurricular activities: Church volunteer

Biggest accomplishment: I have gotten into a lab and received my own research project.

Mentor: I have learned from many mentors. Currently, in my scientific career, my mentor is the post doc under whose supervision I work.

Career goals: After winning the scholarship and going to Berkeley, I have decided to apply for graduate school and pursue a Ph.D.

Impact of Athena: Not only did the award contribute much needed financial help, I really appreciate the way Athena continues to care about me.

Lydia Daboussi: 2001 UCSD Athena Scholarship Winner

School: Stanford

Major: Biological Sciences

Extracurricular activities: Right now I am participating in a program called SPARKS, a community service that involves reading to children who are from underprivileged families at pre-schools and daycare centers. I have also had the extreme fortune to find a laboratory position winter quarter of my freshman year.

Biggest accomplishment: As of now being able to adapt to the fast-paced life that is college. My greatest accomplishment hopefully will be being able to complete my experiments successfully.

Mentor: My father and my mother have been my mentors. They have made it possible for me to come this far with their encouragement, advice and support in all of my endeavors.

Career goals: I want to be a biologist.

Impact of Athena: Being around the remarkable women of Athena has given me the inspiration to excel.

Sandy Ma: 2000 UCSD Athena Scholarship Winner

School: Stanford

Major: Chemistry

Extracurricular activities: Chemistry Club and Bible study.

Biggest accomplishment: Surviving my first year of college. The transition was not easy for me. I have become more appreciative of my new environment.

Mentor: My father has always been there when I needed him.

Career goals: Though medical school is still an option, I am considering graduate school to pursue a career in research in the area of drug discovery.

Impact of Athena: It's been a confidence booster knowing that women with similar career goals have been supportive of me.

Carissa Brewer: 2000 UCSD Athena Scholarship Winner

School: University of California at Berkeley

Major: Molecular and Cell Biology

Extracurricular activities: Participated on an Intramural Frisbee team; volunteered at University Hospital, The Tang Center; became a member of the National Society for Collegiate Scholars; became an intern at the Pre-pharmacy Informational Learning and Leadership Society (PILLS) Club on campus; swimming; tap dancing; hiking; bike riding; skiing.

Biggest accomplishment: I believe that my biggest accomplishment since coming to college has been my desire to seek out opportunities and take advantage of them. I have become less timid and have been taking a more active role in my current well being and my future.

I went to London as part of a summer study abroad program. The experience was incredible and has sparked a new desire to travel the world. This year I am considering going either to Australia and New Zealand on an international conference for medicine or to Belgium and the Netherlands with the study abroad program here at Berkeley.

Mentor: My mother is my mentor. I ask her advice on almost everything. She is always willing to help me in my endeavors and is there whenever I need an ear. I really don't know what I would do without her.

Career goals: I have decided to become a pharmacist.

Impact of Athena: Winning the Athena scholarship has helped me get started in my college career. It helped me to pay for housing my first semester and the computer from Gateway was also a wonderful gift. It is still running smoothly and I appreciate the work it has allowed me to do here at school.

Jenny Ha Truong: In Her Own Words

Each morning as I walk to classes, I am reminded of how beautiful Stanford is, and honestly, how great life can be! Surrounded by Spanish-style buildings with their red-tiled roofs and lofty palm trees, I make my way through the center of the quad, and I can't help but marvel at how gorgeous the campus really is and how happy I am to be here. With the sun shining on my face and the bright blue sky above me, I couldn't have a care in the world.

But then I suddenly remember the math problem set that's due at noon, and the huge research paper due in a week that I haven't even begun. I think it's funny, but moments like these are typical of students here -- there are moments of calm and peace, and then there are moments of intense academic stress.

Soon, however, I push such thoughts aside and focus again on how glad I am not to be going to school on the East Coast, where my friends relate stories of ice and snow.

It's hard to believe that I am more than halfway through my freshman year. It is incredible how quickly the weeks have gone by. It doesn't seem that long ago that I stepped on to the Stanford campus, feeling lost and confused.

The anxieties of living with a stranger and not being able to find my classes have all but dissipated. I feel extremely comfortable here and my dorm has become my second home.

At times, the academic load can be overwhelming and life can get stressful. However, I constantly feel supported and encouraged that things will turn out all right. And they do. There is a general atmosphere that although academics are definitely important, sanity is too.

Because Stanford doesn't require its undergraduates to declare their majors until the end of sophomore year, there seems to be a lighthearted attitude about majors and a strong push toward exploration of a variety of subjects. I am currently quite undecided, but am thinking about possibly majoring in biology for pre-medicine, or studying symbolic systems with a neurosciences concentration. Yet, at the same time, there are so many classes that I want to take that were never offered in high school, such as linguistics and philosophy.

I have enjoyed many of the classes I have taken thus far, particularly a small seminar devoted to examining the relationships between language and gender. It was quite interesting to study how men and women speak differently and the implications of such differences. Regrettably, one class that I have not yet been able to take due to schedule conflicts, is Spanish. I studied the language for five years previously.

One of the reasons for my love of Spanish is my high school teacher, Hillary Park, who infused in me a passion for the language. In addition to being my teacher, she was also my high school speech coach and consequently, she became a mentor to me. We often talked about school, college and life. I could trust her authority and advice, but also talk to her as a friend. We still keep in contact since I have gone to college.

Though academics do take much of my time, I am involved in a mentoring organization on campus called Project AIYME (Asian Initiative for Youth Motivation and Empowerment). The group matches up Stanford students with "at-risk" Asian eighth graders from the South Bay area, and we do different activities with them throughout the year. My mentee is a girl named Caroline, and I have really enjoyed going on retreats with her and getting to know her. I am also active in my dorm's student government, and I am chair of the Sunshine Committee, an affectionate name for happy birthday wishers.

I am truly grateful for having received the UCSD Athena Scholarship. It has helped me and my family tremendously in making my education possible. Every day at Stanford University for me is filled with new discoveries, not only of knowledge, but also about others and myself. Thank you once again for helping me have this opportunity to surround myself with fascinating people, a stimulating education, and a wonderful growing experience.

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