Make a Difference
Her father stared at the financial aid package in disbelief. This is enough money to send our whole village to school, he said. Tufts, the only college that Tabitha Amondi, A14, had applied to in the U.S., was suddenly a real option.
Now a senior majoring in chemistry, Amondi grew up in Kisumu, a town abutting Lake Victoria in western Kenya. As a young girl, she walked to school in the sunshine and spent free moments playing in the park with friends and her three older brothers. But the great expanse of Kisumu quickly narrows for girls in her community as they become young women. Most of them, destined for marriage and motherhood, do not get the chance of a university education.
Fortunately for Amondi, her mother, a teacher with a college degree, was determined to educate her only daughter. It was a mentality passed on by Amondi’s grandmother, who did not have the opportunity of higher education.
“As long as it was up to my mother, I was going to college,” says Amondi. “She would have sacrificed anything.”
Fortunately, Amondi received a generous financial aid package from Tufts. She saw the Hill as a perfect fit: She could study chemistry and get lab experience while still receiving a broad liberal arts education with an eye toward the global community. And, more importantly, the university has a critical mass of students from abroad, people who she says “understand what it means to be an international student on scholarship.”
Amondi has received tremendous support from the Tufts community, in particular husband and wife Rob Gheewalla, A89, and Lisi Criss, J88, who have set out to assist Jumbos hailing from around the world.
Gheewalla and Criss first met as undergraduates during a study abroad program in London, where they discovered firsthand the importance of connecting Tufts students with the wider world. But Gheewalla himself is also the son of immigrants. His father, Russi Gheewalla, DG58, D64, J85P, A87P, A89P, D91P, DG93P, came to the U.S. from India to attend Tufts University School of Dental Medicine, where he would later teach. Given that family history, Gheewalla saw a special importance in giving non-U.S. students the chance to study at Tufts. It was a chance he thought especially crucial for young people from developing countries, where women in particular often lack the opportunities enjoyed by men. “The only way that will change is through education,” he says.
In 2010, Gheewalla and Criss endowed a scholarship fund for international students with financial need. During her sophomore year, Amondi was chosen as the recipient of a scholarship from the Gheewalla Fund that would help support her for the rest of her undergraduate career.
Without the award, Amondi says, she would have had to work a great deal outside of school in order to cover her costs. Instead, she has been able to focus entirely on her studies and lab work with Professor David Walt. Together, they are embarking on a project to make DNA sequencing concepts accessible to high school students.
Once she completes her degree, Amondi wants to go to graduate school in chemistry then return to Africa as a professor, conducting research and educating the next generation. Thanks to Tufts and the Gheewalla scholarship, she feels right at home in a university setting.
“She’s been doing great things at Tufts,” says Gheewalla. “It goes to show you that sometimes very smart people just need an opportunity.”
As part of a university-wide drive to increase financial aid, Tufts is offering to match, in the Schools of Arts and Sciences and Engineering, any newly established endowed scholarship of $100,000 or more.
For more information about endowing a scholarship through the Tufts Financial Aid Initiative, please contact Jeff Winey, director of principal and leadership gifts, at 617.627.5468 or firstname.lastname@example.org.