Charles Bukowski wrote, “I guess the only time most people think about injustice is when it happens to them,” but Bukowski never met Michelle Qin, a 2019 Most Valuable Student scholar sponsored by Santa Barbara, Calif., Lodge No. 613.
As a freshman in high school, Michelle saw photos from her friend’s mission trip that portrayed the injustices in La Antigua, Guatemala—home to the biggest landfill in Central America—that were affecting impoverished families.
From nearly 3,000 miles away, Michelle acted. She founded Together to Empower, a nonprofit dedicated to empowering girls and women not just in Guatemala, but around the world. Together to Empower shows that “everyone has the potential to change the world. After all, our world will only get stronger with girls and boys in the lead, together.”
“We’ve held summer coding camps for girls, organized fundraisers to support women in Uganda, and published the book What is a Woman? to empower the beauty and diversity of the female image,” Michelle says.
Michelle proves that everyone has the potential to think about injustices—not just the ones happening to or near them. When she was recognized as one of America’s top 10 youth volunteers by the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards in 2018, she leveraged the honor not only as an opportunity to open new doors for herself, but to promote her cause as well.
“I’ve dedicated a lot of my time and energy into Together to Empower and, in many ways, I see the evolution of the organization mirrored in my personal growth and understanding,” Michelle says. “Starting Together to Empower and organizing these different, empowering projects these past four years has made such a meaningful impact on me, which I know will continue to inspire me into the future.”
For these reasons, as well as her ability to excel in academics, Michelle was chosen to receive a 2019 Most Valuable Student scholarship. She is currently attending Stanford University. One day, Michelle hopes to become a force in the tech industry. But today, she’s happy to join the Elks family.
“I'm looking forward to joining a network of passionate individuals and change-makers from across the country,” Michelle says. “I hope to continue to give back to my community, be a role model for others, and make a positive impact no matter where I go.”
For 2019-20, the Elks National Foundation allocated $2.87 million to fund the Most Valuable Student scholarship program, which includes 500 four-year scholarships ranging from $4,000 to $50,000. For more information about the Most Valuable Student scholarship program, including eligibility and deadlines, visit enf.elks.org/MVS.