Kenyan Student Makes History in the US

A Kenyan student leader has made waves in the United States of America (USA) after she set a historical record.

According to reports by UConn Today, a publication by the University of Connecticut on Sunday, November 24, Wanjiku Gatheru alias Wawa became the first student from the university to ever receive the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship.

The 20-year-old whose parents are immigrants in the US, is a senior majoring in environmental studies with minors in global studies and urban and community studies.

David Hogg and Wanjiku Gatheru posing for a photo on March 5, 2019

She was among 32 students who were selected from a pool of 963 applicants in the entire US.

The scholarship granted her a place in the American Rhodes Scholar Class of 2020 to pursue postgraduate studies at the University of Oxford in England.

The Rhodes Scholarship is an international postgraduate award for students to study at the University of Oxford. Among notable alumnus is former President of the United States Bill Clinton.

"Just when I think I’ve run out of tears, they just keep coming. I am a 2020 Rhodes Scholar. The first in UConn's history and (by the looks of archives) the first Black person to receive the Rhodes, Truman, and Udall. This is unreal. Mom and Dad - I did it!" she posted on her Twitter.

Wanjiku who is also a fierce environmental activist grew up in Pomfret before spending a year in Thailand as a Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) Scholar of the US State Department. That experience, which she completed just before entering UConn, solidified her commitment to culturally competent conservation.

On-campus, Gatheru also served as vice president of the Undergraduate Student Government (USG) and as the student co-chair of the 2019 University-wide Metanoia, pursuing the theme of “Youth for Change.”

As co-founder of the UConn Access to Food Effort (UCAFE), she helped launch the first assessment of food insecurity on a public institution of higher education in the state which has been cited by US Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., and referenced in the creation of both state and federal legislation.

Wawa aspires to eventually run for Congress, perhaps becoming the first black congresswoman from Connecticut’s 2nd Congressional District.

The Rhodes Trust pays all college and university fees, provides a stipend to cover necessary expenses while in residence in Oxford as well as during vacations, and transportation to and from England, according to the Trust’s announcement.

The total value of the Scholarship averages approximately Ksh7 million per year and up to as much as approximately Ksh25 million for Scholars who remain at Oxford for four years in certain departments.

Wanjiku Gatheru speaking during the Student Leadership Panel at the University of Connecticut on September 28.

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