New American Scholars


A Night to Remember: New Hampshire Women's Foundation GALA 2022

By Riyah Patel, Founder and President of New American Scholars 

There are moments that feel larger than life, instances that awaken our spirits, and people who remind us that the path to change is a long but rewarding journey. Such was the case at the New Hampshire Women's Foundation GALA 2022. 

A Gathering of Trailblazers 

As someone passionate about education, equity, and inclusion, particularly for refugee students in New Hampshire through my organization New American Scholars, I was deeply honored to be named a TRAILBLAZER at this inspiring event. It was a night that celebrated the courage, fortitude, and commitment of women who have shattered glass ceilings, advocated for change, and lived by the motto: "Don't wait for permission." 

Standing Alongside Senator Jeanne Shaheen  

The highlight of the evening was sharing the stage with U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen, the AmplifiHER Awardee of the night. Senator Shaheen has been a steadfast champion for women and girls in New Hampshire for decades, breaking barriers in both governance and legislative endeavors. As the first woman in U.S. history to be elected both a Governor and a United States Senator, she has expanded public kindergarten, made higher education more affordable, and been a fierce advocate for pay equity, among many other accomplishments. 

To stand beside such an accomplished individual—someone who has worked to break down barriers impacting access to education, reproductive care, and economic opportunity—was truly humbling. It reminded me that when it comes to fighting for a more equitable world, we are not alone; we are part of a larger movement that includes incredible leaders like Senator Shaheen. 

The Importance of Community 

The presence of other eminent figures like Senator Martha Fuller Clark, Honorable Katherine Wheeler, Senator Rebecca Perkins Kwoka, Senator Tom Sherman, and Senator Maggie Hassan further emphasized the power of community. They are not just politicians; they are educators in their own way, teaching us about resilience, justice, and the importance of giving back to our communities. 

Reflections and Visions for the Future 

During my speech at the gala, I had the chance to speak from the heart about my journey—the challenges, the milestones, and most importantly, the incredible refugee students we serve at New American Scholars. We provide more than just academic support; we are creating a comprehensive out-of-school support system that nurtures them holistically. Just like Senator Shaheen has fought for an even playing field, so too do we strive to level the educational landscape for every refugee family in New Hampshire. 

Don't Wait for Permission 

"If you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you have a moral obligation to do something about it," Congressman John Lewis once said. This quote rings true for all of us who were present at the GALA. It serves as a collective call to action—a reminder that we all have the power to change the world, starting in our own homes and communities. 

So what kind of future will you create? I hope you find your own ways to bridge divides, foster inclusion, and champion opportunity for all. As for me and New American Scholars, we're just getting started. The urgency and potential impact of our mission serve as relentless fuel for the journey ahead. 

Thank you, New Hampshire Women's Foundation, for a night that amplified our determination and united us all in our shared quest for a better, more equitable world.