The Rochester Women’s Council 2021 Young Women of Distinction finalists
One of the 2021 Young Women of Distinction scholarship award finalists has balanced being a high school student while running a T-shirt business that raises money for local charities. One volunteers as an Arabic tutor for children. One started a peer tutoring service. One has traveled to the Dominican Republic to help impoverished neighborhoods there.
The Women’s Council, part of the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce, has awarded Young Women of Distinction scholarships annually to area teens who embody academic excellence, leadership and community service, said Niki Gaesser, the council’s board of directors secretary.
“We feel that the recognition really solidifies and validates all their contributions to our community,” said Gaesser.
This year, the 13 Young Women of Distinction finalists from schools in Monroe and surrounding counties will be honored at a virtual ceremony from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 18.
Four of the finalists will be granted $2,500 scholarships. The remaining finalists each will get $500 scholarships.
“They are just so extraordinary and unique and accomplished at such a young age,” said Gaesser, who is co-chair of the event. “It makes me so happy to be part of a community that’s raising these young leaders.”
After the ceremony is over and the scholarships are awarded, the young women can go back to pursuing their dreams and ambitions. Gaesser said she and others on the Women’s Council wish to see the teens return to the Rochester area some day.
“We hope that they come back and become our future leaders,” she said.
What follows are the biographies provided to the Women’s Council by each of the finalists. (The bios have been lightly edited for clarity.)
For more information, visit: rocwomenscouncil.org/.
Carys Carr, World of Inquiry School 58
Carys Carr is a senior at World of Inquiry School 58 who ranks among the top five students of her class. She has maintained a 4.0 GPA throughout her high school career and plans to graduate early.
Carys is a member of the National Honors Society, has been named an Urban League Black Scholar and has received Black History Month Scholar Award. Most recently, she was nominated by her teachers to receive the Susan B. Anthony Award, where she was recognized for her leadership, community service and academic success.
Outside of school, Carys runs her own business in which she customizes T-shirts, cups and more while donating a portion of her proceeds to the Rochester community via The Archonette group of the Psi Omega Zeta Chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. Through this group, she also participates in food drives, breast cancer walks and fundraises for some of Zeta Phi Beta’s national affiliates, the March of Dimes, and St. Judes Children’s Hospital.
Carys serves on the executive committee of YVOV, the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council and also remains spiritually connected as a long-standing member of Genesee Baptist Church since 2010. Carys intends to attend Howard University in the fall.
Tahaara Gazali, East High School
Tahaara Gazali came to the United States only seven years ago but is already making her mark in leadership. This new American citizen is a well-rounded senior at East High School who has been actively involved with her communities.
She is devoted to her academics, ranking in the top 10% of her senior class. She won the Rochester Section American Chemical Society Chemistry Achievement Award. Tahaara was inducted into the National Honor Society, elected Treasurer of her branch and was selected for the Mayor’s Leadership Program. She serves as vice-president of the senior class and president of the East High School Cultural Club.
Tahaara loves to volunteer by tutoring children in reading and writing in Arabic, volunteers with food and clothing distribution at Barakah Muslim charity and assists vendors at the Public Market.
Her work ethic and passion for helping people will undoubtedly give back to the community and help her succeed in the field of Biomedical Sciences at the Rochester Institute of Technology.
Bhuvana Chimmiri, Brighton High School
Bhuvana Chimmiri is a senior at Brighton High School and ranks in the top third of her class. She is the chairperson for the Model United Nations conference, serves as a Link Crew leader, the captain of her speech and debate team and has been names a finalist for the New York State Forensic League.
Outside of school, Bhuvana spends most of her time running a community service organization she founded called Rochester Peer Tutoring in which she trains other high school students interested in becoming tutors and then works to connect them with other students who need academic help from all over Monroe County through free virtual sessions. Bhuvana also finds time to intern at a local research lab studying the potential uses for lithium-ion batteries. She also spends countless hours volunteering at both Rochester General and Strong Memorial Hospital.
Bhuvana will be studying Physiology and Neurobiology at North Carolina State University in the fall. She plans to go into the medical field and continuer her passion for serving her community.
Cecily Kolko, Pittsford Sutherland High School
Cecily Kolko is a senior at Pittsford Sutherland High School. She is a member of National Honor Society and recently won the Hollins University Creative Writing Book Award in 2020.
Cecily is passionate about addressing climate change and volunteers with two climate organizations: the New York Youth Climate Leaders and the Climate Solutions Accelerator of the Genesee-Finger Lakes Region.
Through the Accelerator, she is a member of Color Pittsford Green, an organization that advocates for climate solutions in Pittsford, and a co-founder and project coordinator of Color Your School Green. Working with the New York Youth Climate Leaders, she has lobbied for climate legislation in the state legislature.
Cecily is also involved in the Jewish community as a member of Tzafon USY, Temple B’rith Kodesh, and plans to work as a counselor at Camp Seneca Lake this summer. Cecily is also a Kol Koleinu National Jewish Feminist Fellow, where she is working on creating a WNBA fantasy league for her social change project with another fellow as she is a huge women’s basketball fan and wants to help grow the game.
She plans to study math and environmental science and policy at Smith College this fall.
Selin Akbas, Pittsford Sutherland High School
Selin Akbas is a senior at Pittsford Sutherland High School. She is a National Merit Commended Scholar, AP Scholar with Distinction and National Honor Society member. She has received the George Eastman Young Leaders Award and Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership Award.
Selin is the Secretary-General of the United Nations Association of Rochester and Hilton Model UN. She is the President of Student Government Executive Council, Model UN club and Tri-M club. She is the captain of her school’s Tennis varsity team, and the vice-president of the student-run a capella group. She sings jazz and opera and has been recognized with the “Pittsford Pride” citizenship award.
Selin volunteers at Strong Memorial and Rochester General hospitals, joined an educational nonprofit to offer free online tutoring to students in underserved communities and works as a research intern at the University of Rochester.
She has conducted HIV-related research and developed a collaborative research manuscript, which has been submitted for publication. Selin will be attending Johns Hopkins University and would like to pursue a career in public health and medicine.
Delaney Fischer, Our Lady of Mercy
Delaney Fischer is a senior at Our Lady of Mercy School for Young Women. She has been on scholarship roll for six years in a row and will be graduating with Excellence Awards in theatre, forensics, and english.
Delaney is the vice president of Mercy’s environmental club and is also an active member of the National Honor Society, Mercy Show Choir, varsity golf team and serves as a Mercy Ambassador.
Outside of school, Delaney stays busy with three jobs working as a Starbucks barista, a bookstore clerk and a freelance artist. She sells handmade artwork out of Finger Lakes Coffee Roasters in Pittsford and online with a third of all profits going to various environmental and sustainability charities.
When she’s not working or studying, Delaney enjoys running and volunteering her time at Foodlink. She has been described by her teachers and employers as incredibly hard working, determined and an excellent leader in her class.
Delaney looks forward to furthering her academic career at Emory University in Atlanta in the fall.
Alexia Nelms, Hilton High School
Alexia Nelms is the valedictorian of her senior class at Hilton High School. In addition to focusing on her studies, Alexia finds the time to be active in other activities as well — she currently is student body president, is involved with the Principal’s Advisory Council, she is a mentor and advocate for Roc2Change, SADD member, captain of the varsity volleyball team and participates in the Athlete’s Leadership Council.
Alexia values her academic standing and chooses to help others who struggle with certain subjects which is why she also volunteers to tutor in math.
Outside of school, Alexia enjoys knitting and crocheting, which she taught herself. She intends to pursue a degree in the medical field and is interested in studying abroad to learn more about various healthcare systems and medical practices. Alexia’s ultimate dream is to open her own surgical center that embodies the needs of the whole patient.
Kaitlyn Sipes, Churchville-Chili High School
Kaitlyn Sipes is a senior at Churchville-Chili High School. She is a dedicated student, ranking sixth in her class and achieving Highest Honor Roll all four years of high school.
Kaitlyn is active in many school organizations, serving as the President of Executive Council, Secretary of National Honor Society and a member of both Foreign Language Honor Society and Business Honor Society.
Prior to COVID-19, she also served as the Secretary of Bible Club. Outside of school, she is an active participant in her church and youth group, which has given her many volunteer opportunities and has allowed her to participate in Flower City Work Camp for two years.
Kaitlyn also is a member of a competitive dance team, and she works at a local daycare three days a week. She is described by her teachers and peers as thoughtful, motivated, a natural leader and always having a positive attitude.
Next year Kaitlyn will be attending Grove City College to pursue a career in nonprofit marketing.
Maggie Schultz, Brockport High School
Maggie Schultz, a senior at Brockport High School, has been heavily involved in several extracurriculars and has earned multiple awards.
Maggie played varsity tennis and basketball and has received the Most Improved Player Award and the Katie Sweeting Award, which acknowledged her strong work ethic and her ability to be a leader on and off the basketball court.
She is passionate about humanitarianism projects and has traveled to the Dominican Republic to help impoverished communities. She is a member of National Honor Society and is secretary of Model United Nations.
Through Model United Nations, Maggie has attended multiple conferences around Western New York, debating topics and has been described as being an organized and involved officer who encourages others.
Maggie also finds time to work a part time job to save for college. Her determination, leadership skills, and enthusiasm will help her succeed in the field of marketing management in college.
Alicia Livermore, Naples High School
Alicia Livermore is the senior class president and valedictorian at Naples High School. She has successfully balanced her rigorous academic schedule with school and volunteer activities throughout her high school career.
Alicia is a member of National Honor Society and participates in multiple activities in and outside of school — Operation Santa, volunteers for Youth Baseball and Softball. Throughout high school, Alicia has played junior varsity and varsity soccer and softball — all while attending the Finger Lakes Ballet Academy where she has mastered ballet, tap, jazz, modern and hip-hop.
Her passion for music allowed her to be selected as the drum major for Naples’ award winning marching band her freshman year. Alicia has been honored throughout the years with several awards, such as Student of the Year by the Ontario County Youth Board and the George Eastman Young Leader Award.
She plans to pursue business and finance at Clemson University in the fall.
Callie Updike, Holley High School
Callie Updike is the salutatorian of her senior class at Holley High School. She is a member of National Honor Society, her school’s Gay Straight Alliance, Superintendent’s Advisory Council and Varsity Masterminds team.
Callie has proven her leadership skills through serving as President of Student Council, Holley Interact Club, and the Class of 2021. She has received numerous accolades for her work throughout high school, having been awarded the University of Rochester’s Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony Award, the NYS Senate Youth Recognition Award, and the Orleans County Youth Recognition Award.
She recently was honored as a Horatio Alger Association State Scholar. Callie has a devoted passion for music being an active member of her school’s annual musical, concert choir and band, jazz band and marching band.
She frequently volunteers with the American Red Cross, welcoming donors at her local blood drives.
Mature beyond her years, Callie skipped a grade and will be graduating in June at just 16 years old. She is heading to Columbia University in the fall.
Kathryn Fitzpatrick, Batavia High School
Kathryn Fitzpatrick is a senior at Batavia High School. In her community, she is a member of the Batavia Youth Board and has taken annual trips to Albany to discuss funding of youth programs with state senators.
Kathryn’s class rank is 14th in a class of 170. She is active in mock trial, student government, scholastic bowl and music ensembles. She also volunteers through Zonta International and has completed over 150 hours of community service in her high school career.
Outside of school, Kathryn is an avid musician. She spends much of her time in dance lessons, playing music, and being a member of her church’s bell choir and vocal choir.
Kathryn participates in cross country and has a love for running. She makes an impact on everyone she meets and is described as bold, ambitious and intelligent. She is planning on attending Fordham University, where she will double major in political science and communications on a pre-law track. Kathryn is hoping to some day be a lawyer or a member of Congress.
Semma Alfatlawi, Victor High School
Semma Alfatlawi is a senior at Victor High School. She is a hardworking student who has been awarded the National African American Recognition Program Winner and National AP Scholar with Distinction.
Semma is employed as a scribe at an eye care center and tutors students in various subjects. She volunteers through Cares Club, and after school, Semma can be found at Track and Field practice as a competitive long and triple jumper. She enjoys playing piano and has been competing since 2009. She’s involved in National Honors Society and is a Link Leader who has been trained in leadership skills.
Semma is classified as a well-rounded student with the utmost curiosity that drives her to participate in a range of clubs. Semma is the captain of the Math Team and the treasurer of the senior class. Additionally, she competed in Food Marketing in DECA, placing 2nd at the regional competition and top 10 at the state level. With a passion for engineering, Semma plans to pursue a career in Material Science and Engineering at the University of Pennsylvania.