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S E C T I O N 2 People Stories about A LSO INSIDE C people and events in the community. A LE N DA R 30 |R SCHOLAR with E A L A E S TAT E 31 |C ■ April 18, 2012 L AS S I F I E D S 40 cause Photo by Michelle Le/The Almanac Sarah Mummah catches up with longtime student Melissa at a DreamCatchers session held at Palo Alto High School, one of two sites that host the program. Melissa, now in 10th grade, is one of the original students who attended the program when it was first launched in 2008, and now her sister Jasmin, right, is a student of the program. DreamCatchers’ founder Sarah Mummah will continue her work in public health and education as a Gates Cambridge Scholar On the cover Sarah Mummah drops in on a DreamCatchers academic session. Photo by Michelle Le/The Almanac By Renee Batti Almanac News Editor S arah Mummah is beyond doubt a determined woman. She recalls that as a Stanford student, when a professor was discussing disparities in education and health between affluent people and the poor, she demanded: “What can I do about this? Why isn’t anyone doing something about this? It shouldn’t be that hard.” “I was so naive,” the 23-year-old Atherton resident acknowledges over a latte and fruit cup at Cafe Borrone during a recent interview with the Almanac. Naive or not, Ms. Mummah found herself unable to stop gnawing on the basic questions raised during that discussion. But instead of asking why someone else wasn’t doing something about the problem, she focused on the first question — what could she do to correct the troublesome disparities? Throughout her years at Stanford, where she earned a degree with honors in human biology, she explored ways to change what she perceived as an unnecessary condition among disadvantaged kids that made success and good health as adults much less likely than they were for their privileged peers. And in 2008, while still a student, she founded DreamCatchers, a nonprofit serving low-income middle school students — now including high school students — in the areas of academics and health. A cornerstone of the DreamCatchers’ program is one-on-one tutoring with a Stanford student who stays with the younger student for an entire academic year, Ms. Mummah explains. “So they get tailor-made academic support and mentorship, and they get in the loop for a college path.” The program includes a health component, and offers a weekly cook- ing class that focuses on healthful foods. What started as a temporary summer project with Stanford volunteers teaching and mentoring kids is now an established, award-winning program based in Palo Alto — and was likely to have been among the credentials that stood out for the panel of applicant reviewers who recently chose Ms. Mummah as one of 40 Americans named 2012 Gates Cambridge Scholars. The Gates scholarship pays all expenses for Ms. Mummah’s studies at Cambridge University, where she plans to work on a master’s degree in public health, researching approaches to changing behavior that impacts health. Epiphany Ms. Mummah’s education in human biology at Stanford was bolstered, sometimes joltingly, by the education she received through direct experience in the field of human motivation. During her early student days, she volunteered with the group Students for Healthy Youth, working with fifth-graders at a school with many low-income kids. One day, she asked the kids to raise their hands if someone in their family had diabetes, which led to a discussion of how poor eating habits might lead to the now-epidemic disease. But eventually, she realized that talking about the problem wasn’t enough. What good was talk, she asked herself, when she knew deep down that the kids would be heading straight from the classroom to “their hot Cheetos and ice cream.” “It did not take me long to understand: It’s not just telling Continued on page 27 April 18, 2012 N The Almanac N25

The Almanac 04.18.2012 - Section 2

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