The Stanley Ann Dunham Scholarship Fund + the backstory of a presidential shout-out

February 6, 2017 | by Erin Sirianni

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Photo Credit: Stanley Ann Dunham Scholarship Fund

Here’s a story I’ve been meaning to share.

Do you remember when former President Obama gave a shout-out to Mercer Island?  I wrote a blog post about the shout-out on My Mercer Island, and it is our all-time most popular post, bringing over 3,600 people to this website in one day (October 12th, 2015).

The reason for the shout-out gets back to the Stanley Ann Dunham Scholarship Fund. Obama was in Seattle for an evening fundraiser for Senator Patty Murray’s re-election campaign. Several board members of the scholarship attended the fundraiser along with a scholarship recipient – a Mercer Island high school student who wore a special Stanley Ann Dunham scholarship t-shirt made specifically for the event.

At a private reception prior to his fundraiser speech, a small group of guests had a short opportunity to chat with the former President – about two minutes. In that brief amount of time, one of the scholarship representatives told him about the scholarship fund.

As Obama began his speech, he shares his love for Seattle and mentions Mercer Island as the place where his mom (Stanley Ann Dunham) went to high school, and in that moment, also sees the table of scholarship representatives along with the high school student in her Stanley Ann Dunham scholarship t-shirt (all wildly waving and screaming).

He then points and says, “There you go. Way to go, Mercer Island.”

Such a presidential shout-out is rare and not without a meaningful reason.  While it’s been over a year since the shout-out and much has changed, it was a memorable moment with a backstory that needed sharing. So there you have it.

The Stanley Ann Dunham Scholarship Fund
The Stanley Ann Dunham Scholarship Fund is currently accepting applications, and college-bound senior women at Mercer Island High School (MIHS) and Rainier Beach High School are invited to apply.

The Fund awards a $5,000 scholarship to a senior woman who demonstrates a commitment to education and public service. The scholarship honors the work of Stanley Ann Dunham, a 1960 graduate of MIHS, who dedicated her life to working with marginalized communities around the world, especially women. Dunham took her first anthropology course at the University of Washington and went on to earn her PhD in Anthropology from the University of Hawaii.

The Fund was created in 2010 and has awarded 13 scholarships to senior women at Mercer Island High School in the past seven years. This year, the Fund will award an additional scholarship to a female senior student at Rainier Beach High School in Seattle.

The new scholarship, sponsored by an anonymous donor, fits into a structured program at Rainier Beach High School that helps seniors pursue higher education. This program, the Point of Destination Secured – known as PODS – places a “pod” of five to seven seniors under the mentorship of a college student at the University of Washington’s Dream Project.

The application deadline is February 28th, 2017.  Learn more about the Stanley Ann Dunham Scholarship fund at