Seal of the Governor
For Immediate Release: May 9, 2019
Contacts: Office of the Governor: Alenaa Yarmosky,

Governor and First Lady Northam, Virginia Council on Women Announce 8th Annual STEM Essay Contest Winners

RICHMOND—Governor and First Lady Northam and the Virginia Council on Women today announced the winners of the 8th Annual STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) Essay Contest for young women in their junior and senior years of high school. The awardees were recognized at a reception hosted by the Governor and First Lady at the Executive Mansion this morning.

“Every year, this contest rewards some of our brightest young women and provides them with scholarships to pursue their educational goals in high-demand STEM fields,” said Governor Ralph Northam. “The First Lady and I are extremely proud of this year’s contest winners, and all of the students across our Commonwealth who will lead our future as the next generation of scientists, doctors, coders, and engineers.”

The Council on Women established this contest in 2012 to award scholarships to high school junior and senior girls planning to pursue STEM careers at institutions of higher education. Contest award winners represent the five geographic regions across Virginia. Nearly 1,000 young women from across the Commonwealth submitted essays focusing on their vision for a future STEM career.

The award recipients are as follows:

  • Eastern Virginia/Hampton Roads: Rachel Rafter, Salem High School, Virginia Beach, Virginia
  • Richmond/Central Virginia: Rebecca Button, Caroline High School, Milford, Virginia
  • Northern Virginia: Suzanne Tunder, Loudoun Valley High School, Purcellville, Virginia
  • Southwest/Southside Virginia: Lily Toombs, Randolph Henry High School, Saxe, Virginia
  • Valley/Western Virginia: Bethany Hsiao, Blacksburg High School, Blacksburg, Virginia

Applicants were required to be a female or identify as a female who resides in Virginia, enrolled as a junior or senior in high school and hold at least a 2.5 GPA. 

Since its inception, the Council has awarded more than $150,000 in scholarships to deserving high school students. The Council extends its sincere thanks to all of the sponsors and judges of this year’s STEM Scholarship Awards. The sponsors were: Capital One, ADP, Barry Robinson, Morrison & Foerster LLP, Murphy & McGonigle, PC, Patient First, the Virginia Department of Transportation, United Healthcare, Troutman Sanders LLP, and McGuire Woods LLP.

The judges who generously gave their time in judging entries were: Danielle Adams, Swapna Bandla, Ivory Banks, Nikki Bass, Young Brinson, Joseph Brobst , Raymond Burton, Chris Cassingham, Jennifer Chambers, Rima Chavda, Lauren Costella, Allison Couillard, Traci J. Deshazor, Marie Dingess, Marie Divine, Rebecca Dooley, Katherine Eaves, Lauren Fishbein, Jill Gaitens, Diana Gates, Kaylana Gates, Carol Gibbons, Marie Glackin, Wes Gobar, Meaghan Green, Neha Gupta, Tamika Harris-Smith, Alicia Henry, Ngozi Ibe, Stephanie Iverson, Da’Shaun Joseph, Barbara Kapas, Grace Kelly, Noor Khalidi, Salinna Lor, Lori Merricks, Janice Miller, Chrystal Neal, Mary Ashburn Pearson, Stella Pekarsky , Devin Pugh-Thomas, Tina Robertson, Katie Sallee, Daphne Schmidt, Holly Seibold, Melissa Southworth, Traci Stevens, George Ward, Kate Wilke, Emily Williams, Emma Williams, Iryna Wilson, Susan Winslow, and Courtney Wynn.

The Council is pleased to partner again this year with the Math Science Innovation Center, who serves as the fiscal agent for the contest.

The purpose of the Virginia Council on Women is to help women reach their potential and maximize their contributions to society and the Commonwealth. The Council has initiated several projects to meet this goal. One is the annual STEM essay contest for young women in high school. Find more information on the Council or on available sponsorship opportunities here.

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