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Tabitha Amondi, A14
Photo: Alonso Nichols


A Chemist in the Making

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 U.S. college that Tabitha Amondi, A14, had applied to, was suddenly a real option.

A senior majoring in chemistry, Amondi grew up in Kisumu, a town on 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. For most of them—destined for early marriage and motherhood—a university education is out of the question.

Fortunately for Amondi, her mother, a teacher with a college degree, was determined to educate her only daughter. “As long as it was up to my mother, I was going to college,” says Amondi. “She would have sacrificed anything.” But she didn’t have to.

Tufts offered Amondi generous financial aid, allowing her to enroll in the college she saw 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. More important, the university had a critical mass of students from abroad, people who she says “understand what it means to be an international student on scholarship.”

Much of Amondi’s support came from an alumni couple, Rob Gheewalla, A89, and Lisi Criss, J88, who have set out to assist Jumbos from around the world. Gheewalla and Criss met as undergraduates during a study-abroad program in London, where they discovered firsthand the value of connecting Tufts students with the wider world. Gheewalla himself is the son of immigrants. His father, Russi Gheewalla, DG58, D64, J85P, A87P, A89P, D91P, DG93P, came to the United States from India to attend Tufts School of Dental Medicine, where he would later teach. Given that family history, Rob 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, particularly women, who often lack 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 awarded a scholarship from the Gheewalla Fund that would help support her for the rest of her undergraduate career.

Without the assistance, Amondi says, she would have had to work a great deal outside of school. Instead, she has been able to focus entirely on her studies and lab work with Professor David Walt.

Once she completes her degree, Amondi wants to go to graduate school in chemistry, then return to Africa as a professor. 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.”

To learn more about endowing a scholarship through the Tufts Financial Aid Initiative, please visit giving.tufts.edu/fai.

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