Gracemary Wanjiru Nganga immigrated to St.Louis, Missouri from Kenya when she was nine years old. She says, “As I come from humble beginning, I know that I must work hard to make my parent’s sacrifice worthwhile.” She has been involved in various school and community activities where her strong ambition and shining personality allowed her to rise into leadership positions. As a leader, she strives to bring out the best in others. She has realized that helping others overcome their struggles and challenges also, ironically, helps her overcome her own struggles.
Gracemary is most proud of her work within the African community. She volunteers at Vitendo for Africa, a non-profit organization that supports immigrants, and Christ Covenant Church, her majority Kenyan church. She helps organize and execute various events and workshops meant to ease the integration of African immigrants into the American system such as tutoring, health fairs, sporting events, and cultural showcases. Additionally, she is the director of a mission trip to Kenya where she and a group of high school students are helping support the educations of several kids in underfunded orphanages.
At school, Gracemary participates in numerous extracurricular activities as well as maintaining a stellar academic record and enrolling in advanced classes. She is president of the Women of West club, where she leads discussions and action-based events focused on the empowerment of women, and is a founding member of Students Demand Change, working with her school’s administration to bring change around social justice issues and racial tensions that affect her community. She is the Huddle Leader for her school’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and as an athlete, her Varsity Volleyball and Varsity Lacrosse teams have won several titles.
As a testament to her determination, Gracemary has embarked on her career interests early on. She is involved with research through the Young Scientist Program and was one of the 100 students across the nation to win the Emperor Science Award, allowing her to conduct cancer research at Washington University, St. Louis (WashU). Additionally, she is one of the 15 high school students chosen to work alongside a scientist at WashU through the Young Scientist Program, where she will be researching brain tumors, and she is a Saturday Scholar at Washu, learning more about the human anatomy alongside medical students. Additionally, she recently became a QuestBridge College Prep Scholar. In college, she hopes to major in immunology and then attain an MD/PhD.
As a first-generation college student, Gracemary is most inspired by her background, specifically her grandmother and parents who she hopes to make proud. As a research doctor, she plans to work in similar communities as the small village she came from. She says, “I’ve seen the effects the lack of affordable treatments can have, and in America, I’ve seen the complete opposite. That’s why I hope to work with underfunded communities to bring healthcare and community interventions.” With her determination and perseverance, she will no doubt follow the footsteps of Alexander Hamilton as she continues to break down barriers.