For 53 years, Glamour magazine has honored the most impressive female students in the Top 10 College Women Competition. This year's winners include women who aspire to work for the World Health Organization and to produce documentaries that educate the public.
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Maya Moore, 21, University of Connecticut
Her dream: “To win WNBA championships.”
How she’s reaching for it: Moore led the Huskies in back-to-back undefeated seasons, helping set an NCAA Division I women’s basketball record of 78 consecutive wins. In 2009 her team was honored at the White House, where they shot hoops with President Obama. “We were in heels, and he had the home-court advantage, so we’d like a rematch,” she jokes. But Moore’s talent is serious: She was the first freshman in Big East basketball history — men’s or women’s — to be named Player of the Year. That’s not all: She mentors student athletes and maintains an impressive GPA.
The moment that changed everything: “My mom propped a hoop on the back of our door when I was a toddler, and I haven’t stopped playing ball since.”
Emily Elbert, 21, Berklee College of Music
Her dream:“To continue my career as an international singer, guitarist and songwriter.”
How she’s reaching for it: Elbert will never forget her fourteenth birthday, when she received a guitar as a gift. “That night, I went into my room and played until my fingers bled,” she says. Seven years later, she has won awards on both sides of the Atlantic for her talent, and she’s performed for audiences as diverse as parliament members in Scotland, art students in Puerto Rico and club-hoppers in Peru. She made her first CD in high school and used the profits from it and her local performances to get her start at Berklee. In September, she debuted her second album, “Proof.”
What’s on her iPod: “Alphabetically, I have everything from Aaliyah to ZZ Top.”
Beat the blues with these back-to-school cartoons from Daryl Cagle.
Beat the blues with these back-to-school cartoons from Daryl Cagle.
Sophia Khawly, 21, Florida State University
Her dream: “To work for the World Health Organization.”
How she’s reaching for it: While visiting Haiti, her parents’ homeland, Khawly noticed abundant poverty and few public schools. At age 14, she decided to create an organization to build a school. “My sister and I named it Hope For Haiti’s Children; our whole family got involved,” she says. Now HFHC has opened two schools, which educate about 300 children annually —miraculously, the earthquake earlier this year didn’t harm the buildings. Khawly, a nursing major, manages HFHC’s medical services (donate at hopeforhaitischildren.webs.com). After becoming an R.N., she plans to get a doctorate of nursing practice.
Secret obsession: “Koala bears!”
Mackenzie Lowry, 22, Harvard University
Her dream: “To be a policy adviser to the president on health care.”
How she’s reaching for it: The Iowan’s dad died of lung cancer when she was a teen. Soon after, she started working with local anti-tobacco advocates to institute a $1-a-pack cigarette state tax increase. “I wanted everyone to look at my widowed mom, my sister and me, and see that smoking doesn’t hurt just the person doing it,” she says. Lowry deferred Harvard for a year to continue pushing for the tax she so fiercely believed in; in 2007 it was signed into law, and the governor cited Lowry and her father in his speech. On campus, she founded the Tobacco Control Policy Group, a student-run think tank at the Institute of Politics.
What inspires her: “Cigarette smoking kills almost 180,000 women in the United States a year. I think about them and can’t stop fighting.”
Oluwadamilola Oladeru, 21, Yale University
Her dream: “To serve as the minister of health in Nigeria.”
How she’s reaching for it: Oladeru grew up in a two-room apartment in Lagos, Nigeria, with 11 of her family members. When she was 10, she immigrated with her family to the Bronx, New York. Now a prize-winning scientist, she’s interned with the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the National Institutes of Health. But she’s also giving back to her homeland: She worked with her grandfather to open the Read at Peace library in Erin-Ijesa, Nigeria. “At the opening of the library, a little girl came up to me and said, ‘Remember my face, because I’ll never forget how you changed my life,’” Oladeru recalls. “That impact is part of why I want to be a doctor and help people.” Medical school is next.
Her dos and don’t: “Do dream big. Don’t settle.”
Her motto: “No one is ever too young or too busy to make a difference.”
Michelle Pomeroy, 22, New York University
Her dream: “To empower women.”
How she’s reaching for it: While competing in rodeos near her hometown of Hesston, Kansas, Pomeroy hoped to have a global career. She’s off to a great start. She taught exiled Tibetan nuns in India to use computers — and Facebook (really!) — and later worked with the Tibetan Women’s Association to help women obtain political office. “I always listen to the voices of the local women,” she says. “I can’t help them find a solution until I hear their day-to-day struggles.” This passion brought Pomeroy to Israel, where she interned with the U.N. high commissioner for refugees. At NYU she’s working toward a master’s of public and nonprofit management and policy alongside her bachelor’s degree.
How she unwinds: “In Kansas I go for horse rides; in New York I do yoga.”
Erica Fletcher, 19, University of Houston
Her dream: “To make documentaries that educate the public.”
How she’s reaching for it: Inspired by her Latina heritage, Fletcher has traveled to São Paulo, Brazil, where her parents grew up and where she has dual citizenship, and to Mexico City. When the triple major (that’s anthropology, psychology and sociology) discovered that Latina and Hispanic women in the United States have an AIDS diagnosis rate five times higher than that of white women, she decided to make a film to show the faces behind that stat. “Suddenly it hit me — those numbers probably include people I know,” she recalls. “Marianismo” has been screened throughout Houston, and the Texas Department of State Health Services is considering using it as an educational tool. Up next: a documentary about sex trafficking.
How she unwinds: “I love cooking; maple syrup is the special ingredient in my beef chili.”
Amy Qian, 21, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Her dream: “To create products that help people live better lives.”
How she’s reaching for it: Qian traveled to the Qinghai province in western China during the winter of her sophomore year. “It had the most piercing, pulse-stopping cold I have ever experienced,” she remembers. The freezing weather was actually what brought Qian to the area: She designed a low-cost, portable solar-powered cooker to reduce people’s dependency on harmful fuels linked to respiratory diseases. So far her cooker, created with One Earth Designs, has won the St. Andrews prize for the environment and grants from the Clinton Global Initiative University and the Environmental Protection Agency.
Her dos and don’ts: “Don’t lose sight of your goals. Do make time for all of the unpredictable, awesome things that will happen along the way.”
Merritt Moore, 22, Harvard University
Her dream: “To be the best dancer I can be — and become an adviser for nuclear weapon nonproliferation.”
How she’s reaching for it: The physics major took a year off to dance for the Zurich Ballet company. “While dancing, I still felt a strong pull toward physics,” she says. “So during lunch breaks, I would go to the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and audit a quantum mechanicscourse.” Moore can’t get enough of the subject: “Quantum computing makes the hair on my arms stand up!” She continues to marry her interests at school, where she was artistic director of a 72-person-strong multimedia dance performance.
Most embarrassing moment: “During a competition, the strap on my leotard broke, and I flashed the judges. Whoops!” Moore dances on the Harvard campus.
Shabana Basij-Rasikh, 20, Middlebury College
Her dream: “To become a minister of women’s affairs in the Afghan government.”
How she’s reaching for it:Growing up in Kabul, Afghanistan, Basij- Rasikh dressed as a boy for five years and walked 45 minutes to and from a secret school six days a week — that was the only way she could get an education. After the Taliban fell, she proposed a plan for a girls’ school to the deputy minister of education. She was just 16, but she convinced him. Today, the school has six classrooms and its own well, and Basij-Rasikharranged for the construction of nine other wells. “Only about 20 percent of the Afghan population has access to clean drinking water,” she explains. Now she’s attending Middlebury on a full scholarship, where she launched her nonprofit, HELA, which means “hope” in Pashto, her native language. Her next goal? To build fields for girls’ athletics in Afghanistan (make a donation at helainc.org). Oh, and to attend law school.
Her secret obsession:“I save most of my voice mails — I turn them into MP3s for my iPod.”
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