This blog post is included as part of the “Her Story” series, which celebrates the stories of pivotal women in our students' lives that inspire, motivate and embolden them. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the ideas, views or opinions of

Pivotal Leadership

Ahmi Dhuna

Ahmi Dhuna.jpeg

My path to Stanford University was paved in large part by Mrs. Sara St. John, my high school extended learning teacher and one of my most pivotal legacy leaders. I attended a public school in rural Iowa, and Mrs. St. John actively worked to make sure that my locality did not affect my academic opportunities.

One experience in particular comes to mind. Mrs. St. John knew I had an interest in scientific research and that I had spent my summer studying the antibacterial effects of indigenous medicines that had existed in my mother’s home country for generations. Upon returning to school in the fall, I decided to present my research at the local science fair. When Mrs. St. John learned how much time and effort I had committed to the project, she actively began seeking out other mediums for me to present my work. She tapped into her network of teachers around Southeast Iowa and found a program called the Junior Science and Humanities Symposium. The symposium brings together high school students who have completed original STEM research, and the top student researcher goes on to represent the state at the international competition. No one from my high school had ever competed in the symposium, but after Mrs. St. John found the opportunity, we began working over lunch breaks, after school, and on the weekends to create a compelling presentation.

Ahmi 1.png

On the day of the symposium, Mrs. St. John drove to Iowa City with me and my family. After a full day of fascinating presentations, my mom, Mrs. St. John, and I sat together anxiously during the award ceremony. They had announced most of the honorees, and I was not called to the stage. I was resigned to the fact that I had tried but had not been a top contender. We were ready to head back to Burlington when they got to the first place winner. I heard my name.

Mrs. St. John’s efforts to push outside the boundaries of my school district had paved my path to success. Her embodiment of legacy leadership in my life allowed me to discover opportunities I didn't even know existed. Mrs. St. John’s belief in me was unwavering and through her support, I was able to embark on untraversed paths throughout my high school career.

Ahmi 2.png

I think back often on the female legacy leaders I have been lucky enough to have in my life – my mother, my teachers, and my mentors. These women have instilled in me the need to pay this inspiration and empowerment forward. When I am back in Iowa, I help students study for the ACT and apply for scholarships. At Stanford, I spent two years tutoring young women through East Palo Alto Tennis and Tutoring (EPATT) and today, I lead campus tours for prospective students who might not otherwise get to see the university.

I am a student at Stanford because of the energy, tenacity, and courage channeled into me by countless legacy leaders. I am dedicated to paying this privilege forward, at all stages of my career, to support and uplift other women.