Ten Dallas ISD students were awarded scholarships to pursue higher education during the ninth annual Women LEAD competition. The competition, established to create opportunities for future women leaders, has been run by the Junior League of Dallas since 2013.
According to NBC, the finalists included young women from Thomas Jefferson, South Oak Cliff, and Conrad high schools. The final part of the Women LEAD competition, before judges picked the winners, was a speech.
All ten finalists received some form of scholarship, but Jessica Ramirez from Thomas Jefferson received the first-place prize of $15,000. Ramirez spoke to NBC after the competition about her family’s financial burden, which the scholarship will lighten.
“In the moment, I was very shocked,” Ramirez said about receiving first place. “They announced second place. And so that only left first place, and I realized I won. And, I didn’t quite believe it at first.”
According to NBC, each student received scores based on their resumes, letters of recommendation, transcripts, and an essay. Students received a prompt about Naomi Osaka, a famous tennis player, and her decision to leave the French Open to prioritize her mental well-being.
The students discussed their mental health struggles in their essays and speeches.
According to Ramirez, her speech and essay focused on “breaking the Latino narrative. How all Latina women really face the challenges of society, their expectations of us, or the stereotypes they put on us. And it’s about me not wanting to follow that path.”
In the fall, Ramirez will attend Boston University.
“I really wanted to be in a college in a city and to explore a lot more than what I have in my life right now, and it offered me the major I wanted to study, which is electrical engineering,” she said.
The Junior League of Dallas President, Christa Sanford, also majored in engineering when she was in school.
“It is so special,” Sanford told NBC as she spoke about Ramirez’s win. “It warms my heart to hear what Jessica is going to do with these funds. And how she is going to pursue her dream of engineering. It just brings a smile to my face when I hear that women are getting into STEM.”
Lesley Martinez placed second in the competition and received a $10,000 scholarship. Karah Johnson won the third-place prize of $5,000, and Rosa Tejada won $3,000 in fourth place. Fifth place went to Imzadi Diaz alongside a $2,000 scholarship.
The remaining five students, Jonteria Jackson, Jennifer Sanchez, Elizabeth Oyinwola, Tha Lang, and Rayven Foreman, received honorable mentions and were awarded $1,000.
The Women LEAD scholarship program was created in 2013 to help young women seek higher education and grow into leaders. Since its start, Junior League of Dallas through Women LEAD has given out 62 scholarships and a total of $305,000 to female Dallas ISD seniors.