Seal of the Governor
For Immediate Release: April 2, 2021
Contacts: Office of the Governor: Alenaa Yarmosky,

Governor and First Lady Northam, Virginia Council on Women Announce 10th Annual STEM Essay Contest Winners

RICHMOND—Governor and First Lady Northam and the Virginia Council on Women today announced the winners of the 10th Annual STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) Essay Contest for young women in their junior and senior years of high school. The awardees will be recognized at a virtual reception hosted by the Governor and First Lady later this month. 

“This annual contest is one important way that we are working to encourage more girls to pursue their interests in STEM careers and increase representation in science, technology, mathematics, and engineering professions,” said Governor Northam. “The First Lady and I are so proud of this year’s contest winners and hope every student who submitted essays will be inspired to continue learning and nurturing their passion for STEM.” 

The Virginia 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, including four-year colleges and universities, community colleges, and career and technical schools. Contest award winners represent the five geographic regions across Virginia. This year, nearly 100 young women from across the Commonwealth submitted essays focusing on their vision for a future STEM career. To date, the Council has awarded more than $150,000 in scholarships through this annual essay contest.

The award recipients are as follows:

  • Eastern Virginia/Hampton Roads
    • Elisa Miller, Landstown High School, Virginia Beach, Virginia
    • Michelle Nguyen, Yorktown High School, Yorktown, Virginia
  • Southwest/Southside Virginia
    • Abby Bartz, Abingdon High School, Abingdon, Virginia
    • Elyssa Kancherla, Bassett High School, Bassett, Virginia
  • Richmond/Central Virginia
    • Ritika Allada, Deep Run High School, Glen Allen, Virginia
    • Imani Lee, Greensville County High School, Emporia, Virginia
  • Valley/Western Virginia
    • Gretchen Maune, Harrisonburg High School, Harrisonburg, Virginia
    • Emi Miyazaki, Blacksburg High School, Blacksburg, Virginia
  • Northern Virginia
    • Ahana Sinharoy, Freedom High School, Chantilly, Virginia
    • Lidya Demilew, Lake Braddock Secondary School, Burke, Virginia

The Virginia Council on Women’s definition of STEM includes majors and careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. In 2020, the Council broadened its definition of STEM to STEAM-H for the 10th annual contest, which includes science, technology, engineering, arts, mathematics, and health care. This decision was made in an effort to be more inclusive of the growing intersection between STEM and the arts.

“For years now, the Virginia Council on Women’s STEM Essay Contest has increased educational access for students throughout the Commonwealth and we are thrilled to now expand this access to even more students,” said Da’Shaun Joseph, Chair of the Virginia Council on Women STEM Initiatives Committee. “The Council wishes this year’s winners joy and success as they continue to learn and grow in their field.”

This year, one merit-based and one need-based scholarship will be awarded in each of five geographic regions across the Commonwealth. Merit-based scholarships will be awarded based on the quality of the essay submitted and need-based scholarships will be awarded based on the quality of the essay and the individual’s self-identified financial need. Award amounts may vary and are determined by the Council annually. Essay entries were judged by a panel of Council members and individuals who represent STEM fields.

The chief purpose of the Virginia Council on Women is to help women reach their potential and maximize their contributions to society and the Commonwealth as wage earners and citizens. The Council has initiated several projects to meet this goal, including the annual STEM Essay Contest for high school seniors. For additional information about the Council and available sponsorship opportunities, please visit

# # #