A Few Words from our Fall Penny Program Recipients | Part Two

Over the next several weeks we are posting blogs about our Penny Program recipients. Highlighted in this blog are four Barbara J. Penny Community Service Scholarship recipients: Gulmira Fazilova, Shanika Egodawatte, Priyanka Lamichhane, and Oluwatobi Oluwagbemi. Each of the recipients have displayed great dedication to their communities during their college careers. 


Gulmira Fazilova 

I have been working on M.A. in Public Administration and M.S. in Mathematics and Statistics at Minnesota State University, Mankato for the last three years. Once I graduate, I am planning to work for the state or federal government mainly focusing on fiscal management and eventually apply for a Ph.D. in Public Policy.

Although, I stay busy working on two Masters degrees concurrently, I always have time and motivation to be involved in my community. Currently, I am volunteering with the Diversity Council of the City of Mankato to travel around Minnesota and contribute to children’s understanding of diversity at schools. I believe community service is one of the most rewarding experiences and as a prospective public administrator, I aspire to contribute towards community development. This year, I was honored to be chosen by the Students United Board to receive the Barbara J. Penny Community Service Scholarship. This scholarship allows me to focus on my academic success, continue my community involvement and work on the research paper that I am planning to present during the annual ASPA conference in 2017.


Priyanka Lamichhane 

I am a junior at St. Cloud State University pursuing my major in Computer Science. I consider myself a hardworking, kind hearted and passionate person. I have always been actively involved in different volunteer and community service activities because I believe that community service is an excellent opportunity for people to look beyond themselves, and contribute in making a better community and help people in need. It has also helped me gain leadership skills, build interpersonal relationship skills and improved my communication skills.

I have been a part of First Year and Transition Programs as an Orientation Leader where I had a chance to work with freshman students and help them become familiar with the campus community. I was also a tutor for the La Cruz Community Center in St. Cloud where I tutored elementary to high school Somali students in Mathematics, Science and Geography to help them better comprehend the school lectures, learning objectives, and catch up with other students. While tutoring Somali students, I was more driven to help children so I decided to join the Helping Nepal International (HNI) Organization at St. Cloud State University as a Treasurer. HNI was established with the motive to create a safe living environment, education, and healthcare for the underprivileged children in Nepal. We collected around $4500.00 in 2015 which was donated to Sam’s House Orphanage which is an American registered orphanage that helps the children in Nepal. I come from a developing country, Nepal, where women and children are always victimized. I always wanted to be a voice for those women and children and fight for their rights.

I aspire to be a software developer and a paragon for all the women pursuing their major in Computer Science fields. Besides from that, I also aim to be a part of UN Youth Assembly whose goal is to bring all the youth together in transforming our world by 2030. Some of their agenda includes No Poverty, Zero Hunger, Good Health and Well Being, Gender Equality, Quality Education and many more.

With the devastating earthquake that hit my home country Nepal in April 2015, I was facing a huge financial difficulty. Barbara J. Penny Community Service Scholarship has not only lightened my financial burden but has also motivated me to focus more on the important aspect of my school and community. It has inspired me further to give back to my community and I really hope one day I will help students achieve their goals just as Students United Scholarship helped on mine. 


Shanika Egodawatte

I am senior international student at Minnesota State University, Mankato. I am pursuing a Bachelors of Arts degree in International Relations and my minor is Economics.

I started my undergraduate studies as a transfer student from Sri Lanka in 2015. Sri Lanka is a country that has been ravaged by a bitter civil war for thirty years. In the post war period, I worked as the President in LEO club of Kaduwela who organized a donation campaign to distribute water for the refugee camps. Meanwhile, we extended our partnership to the program called "Sanhida" who volunteered themselves to help children who got affected by the war. These led me to pursue my major in International Relations.

In summer 2016, I earned my internship in United Nations and worked for the office of the Secretary Generals Envoy on Youth. Basically the work of Youth guided by the priority areas of the World Programme of Action for Youth and the priority areas of the UN System Wide Action Plan on Youth. Continued focus for these are placed on Youth on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Employment, Civic Engagement, Peace and Security, and Promoting Youth Policies while ensuring the integration of a gender perspective across all work areas. In parallel, the Office of Secretary Generals Envoy on Youth (OSGEY) continue to support the Education First Initiative and the planned activities in relation to youth and education. There are four principles of this youth office and many goals are being set up for each principle, such as Participation, Advocacy, Partnership and Harmonization.

Meanwhile, I am working as the public relations specialist in Students United in Minnesota State University. We educate and inform students about higher education issues that affect their lives as students, while providing opportunities for these students to use this knowledge to advocate on behalf of all Minnesota State University students. This is very important and I gained much knowledge of the system and the ways we could be able to help our students.

My current career ambition is to find a suitable role within an international organization as a social worker, such as the UN, ideally with specific focus on assisting people who have been displaced due to civil unrest, war, famine or an other natural disaster. Awarding me the Barbara J. Penny Community Service Scholarship Award lightened my financial burden which allows me to focus more on the most important aspect of college, learning.

Shanika is also the Public Relations Specialist for the Students United Mankato Committee.


Oluwatobi Oluwagbemi - Penny Scholarship Recipient 

My name is Oluwatobi Oluwagbemi and I am a senior at St. Cloud State University. My majors are International Relations and Women Studies.

On my campus, I am involved with the College Democrats. I founded the Honor Society on campus and I am the president of that organization. I have held a leadership position with the National Society for Leadership and Success as their Society Events Chair. I have tutored other students in the Academic Learning Center and I am a contributor for the school newspaper. I am also a volunteer for the yearly Power in Diversity Conference. Outside the campus, I am also involved with the League of Women Voters and the American Association of University Women. I have also been involved with the St. Cloud Women Shine and the Jugaad Leadership Program.

 I want to contribute to Central Minnesota by creating mentorship programs for students and a program for students to get tutoring in classes. It is very important that students get the mentorship that they need so that they can take advantage of those opportunities and also create more opportunities for others.  Michelle Obama said that when people have opportunities, they should open doors for others and that is what I want to do by using all my opportunities well and also giving back to my community by working hard and not giving up despite the challenges. I hope to still be more involved in the community as more opportunities come up.   

I started to become passionate about women’s issues on my campus when I took a women studies class that discussed the various struggles of women in the developing world and I wanted to help them. I then decided that I was most passionate about gender equality, education, preventing gender-based violence, women’s empowerment and global health. I have always looked at great women like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Adepeju Jaiyeoba and Leymah Gbowe as my role models for me to become a global woman who can make a global difference in the world. 

I have been honored to have been chosen as one of the most involved students on my campus. I hope to be an advocate, author, diplomat, and motivational speaker. I believe that I can use my talents and skills to better the world. I believe that small steps can turn into big progress in the future. I know that I can achieve all my goals because I am determined to succeed. I will be going to graduate school when I am done with my bachelor’s degree next May. I hope to study International Development and Gender Studies so that I can work in an International Organization in the future. I believe that I can make a difference with all my involvement in St. Cloud. I am really grateful for being a recipient of the Barbara J. Penny Community Service Scholarship and I hope to be able to make a difference with my education. I also hope to be able to make a difference in my community and work my way to becoming an international figure for global development. This scholarship has helped me be more motivated to continue my education with graduate school and also take on more leadership roles on and off campus. I plan to be more involved with Jugaad and also start the first chapter of American Association of University Women Students on my campus. The scholarship has motivated me to rise up from obstacles and face my future. I am very excited to intern for the Capitol Pathways. I am very grateful to have been honored by Students United and I am able to graduate with my degree in May 2017 because of this scholarship.