The Freedom to Follow Your Passion: Meet Pullman Scholar Dejah Powell, Cornell University ‘18.

Dejah Powell (Cornell University ’18) is a college senior, but she’s already made a difference in the world that people twice her age only dream of. She credits the Pullman Foundation for much of her success. “My Pullman Foundation Scholarship is transformative,” she says. “It’s given me the freedom to focus on my academics and do what I need to do.”

Powell will graduate from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York this spring with a major in environmental and sustainability science. Over the past four years, in addition to managing a heavy course load, she has studied abroad and worked in the prestigious Hunter R. Rawlings Presidential Research Scholar Program (her current research focuses on Chicago food deserts).

For most students, those projects would be more than enough to juggle. But in March 2016, Powell also established her own non-profit, Get Them to the Green, to bring environmental education to children on the south side of Chicago. Powell organized a one-week camp for elementary school students. She planned the entire curriculum; invited and scheduled speakers; and arranged field trips so that campers could better understand issues like environmental justice and climate change. “It was a lot of work,” she admits. “Now I respect my teachers even more!”

This past summer, she and fellow scholar Ana Hernandez (Southern Illinois University-Carbondale ’18) presented a session to their fellow Pullman Scholars about change-making at this year’s symposium. “I wanted to help other students be the change they want to see in the world,” she explains. “It can be pretty daunting to figure out how to move from having an idea and feeling strongly about something, to knowing what to do about it.”

After college Powell hopes to volunteer as a garden educator while working with a political consultancy in Chicago. “Whatever I do, I know I’ll be socially engaged,” she says.

“That’s one reason I’m so grateful to the Pullman Foundation,” she continues. “My scholarship has given me the freedom to follow my passion. I know I can pursue the work I love without worrying about paying off a massive student debt. I feel incredibly blessed and honored to be a Pullman Scholar and a part of the Pullman Foundation family.”

The “ripple effect” – the ability of one person to impact the life another – starts with you and your commitment to supporting Pullman Scholars.  Please consider a gift to the George M. Pullman Educational Foundation so that like Dejah, we can help many more Chicago-area young people attend college and pursue their American Dream.