Leenah G. ’23 was just starting her day when she learned that she had been selected as one of the recipients of the 2022 R.I.S.ing Leader scholarship award. As she sat by her mother that early morning, she says she was surprised and gleeful upon receiving the news, and she recognized how special the moment was as she took it all in.
“Being one of the 2022 R.I.S.ing Leader Scholarship recipients is such an honor, and I am very appreciative and grateful for the opportunities that this award will provide alongside the women in leadership I will have the privilege of meeting and learning from,” Leenah says. “This scholarship means that the work I have put into developing myself as a leader is highly appreciated, and that my want and longing to improve myself as a young woman leader is encouraged as well.”
R.I.S.E. (which stands for Realizing Inspiration and Sustaining Excellence) helps inspire, connect, recognize, and support women of all ages in the workplace, entrepreneurship, and beyond. As part of its mission, “R.I.S.E is deeply invested in the young women of today who will be leading the world and futures of tomorrow.” In addition to receiving a scholarship, R.I.S.ing Leader awardees have access to a dynamic group of professional women as they continue their academy journeys, pursue internships, and begin their careers.
Being selected as a R.I.S.E. scholarship recipient is a fitting next step for Leenah, who began at Wheeler in 9th grade. Since that time, she has been involved in the Upper School’s Black Affinity club, SICA (Students Involved in Cultural Awareness), Peer Support, and the 18 Wheelers a cappella group. This year, Leenah is also the Co-Head of Community Council, which oversees the work of Club Leaders, assists with assemblies, partners with Wheeler Student Senate and the Dean of Students, and serves as a key representative for the student body.
“As Co-Head, I have the opportunity to represent my peers in the best way possible; to advocate for them and work towards making their high school experience both memorable and enjoyable,” explains Leenah. “My focus this year is to try and get back some of the privileges we have lost due to COVID, to create more opportunities for Upper School students to bond as a community, and to truly enjoy high school and all that follows.”
With her leadership expanding beyond the Wheeler campus, Leenah hopes to use her voice to help others and to create positive change within her community. As she reflects on the leaders and role models in her life who have embodied these traits, she praises Wheeler’s Director of Unity and Diversity Princess Sirleaf Bomba P’16, P’18, (though she prefers to call her “Aunty”). “Mrs. Bomba is a force of nature,” Leenah says. “To me, she represents empowerment. Any and everything she sets her mind to comes into fruition, and she has been a constant in my life since I’ve been at Wheeler.”
Leenah also has great admiration for her mother. “She is my idol and a constant in a time of need and a force to be reckoned with. I have the utmost respect for her and everything she has done for me and others. Both she and Mrs. Bomba have the kindest and purest hearts. Everything they touch turns to gold, and I would be lucky to become even half the women they are.”
Ms. Bomba says the esteem is mutual. “From the moment Leenah decided that Wheeler was where she would spend her four years of high school, she began to demonstrate leadership and engage with the community,” she remembers. Ms. Bomba points to an important moment at the beginning of 9th grade, when Leenah and her friend Isaiah decided to run for Class Co-Presidents. “They saw this opportunity to make history as the first pair of Black students serving as Class Co-Presidents at Wheeler; therefore, they approached the election process very seriously. They prepared their speech and rehearsed in my office, welcoming any feedback with appreciation. Leenah and Isaiah won the election, and a few years later they successfully ran again, this time becoming the first Black Community Council Co-Presidents in Wheeler’s history. In between those years, she has participated in all aspects of life at Wheeler. From athletics, to performing arts, DEIB (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging) programs, and serving as a mentor to a Lower School girl, Leenah leads with grace, humility, and a genuine love for her school. I couldn’t imagine a more deserving recipient of a R.I.S.E scholarship than Leenah!”
Ms. Bomba and her mother, as well as the other role models she will meet through the R.I.S.E. network, will be invaluable resources to Leenah going forward. “As far as my future, I don’t know for certain what it holds, but I hope that in 10 years from now I’m working in a career that I love” –she is currently considering Crime Analysis and Profiling– “and making a difference for and within my communities,” says Leenah. “I hope I continue to strive for action and take on leadership roles, not shying away from adversity but rather taking it on full speed ahead. I hope my future maintains the comfort I’ve found within my family and friends, and that I’ve only continued to change for the better.”