UNCF STEM Student Spotlight: Sara Howell

What does it mean to be a UNCF STEM Scholar? 

Sara Howell, currently a Princeton University student—Class of 2020—plans to major in the sciences within the school's Pre-medical Studies Track. Sara graduated from C.D. Hylton High School in Woodbridge, VA, in the top three students in her class. 

UNCF: Sara, can you share your background with us?
Sara Howell:
I was born in Brooklyn, NY, the second child to first-generation American parents. My dad is from Barbados, and my mom is from Guyana. We stayed in New York for about three years before we moved to Maryland, courtesy of my Mom’s new military assignment. Growing up, my family constantly moved from house to house due to the military. After a while, my mom began deploying on her own and leaving her husband and three kids behind. My dad was a computer technician and has worked as a high school teacher for many years. So while my mom was gone, my siblings and I naturally imprinted on my dad.

We followed him to school sometimes, shadowed him in his classes and even helped him grade papers. It was this that first ignited my love of learning. At this time I was in elementary school, but I wanted to be able to solve the “big kid problems” and pushed myself to learn foreign concepts and expand my reading abilities. My hard work began to pay off as my own schoolwork became fairly easy and I finished homework quickly. This gave me more time to pursue my own passions, and I found I loved people and science. Moving around during my childhood helped me to become versatile, and I learned about the complexity of people. I became very outgoing and personable. As for science, it just made sense to me. I thought the interconnectedness of the world and everyone living in it was fascinating. 

After my mom’s return, my parents divorced, and my mom moved my siblings and me to Virginia. I’ve been living here ever since, and have continued to take my education very seriously. After some initial hesitation, I became sure of the fact that I wanted a profession in the medical field when my mom took me to Louisiana with her for a business trip; she is a registered nurse in the Army. In Fort Polk, LA, my mom was able to put me in contact with the nurse anesthetist because I was and still am very much interested in anesthesiology. The nurse anesthetist was impressed by my willingness to discover all I could about his field, and invited me to participate in an actual Caesarean section the next day as the surgical assistant. So at the age of 14, I participated in my very first surgery. It was exhilarating.

As for science, it just made sense to me. I thought the interconnectedness of the world and everyone living in it was fascinating.

Since then, I have continued to immerse myself in all things pre-med using the skills of curiosity, inquisition and conviviality; skills which I’ve adopted from my childhood. 

UNCF: You found a passion for the sciences at 14. Were there situations or roadblocks you had to confront? How did you work around them?
I’ve learned that the most powerful tool in life is the power of access. It’s not enough for an opportunity to exist, but existence along with the gift of being accessible creates magic. In most cases, the opportunity won’t present itself with bells and whistles, and it is up to the individual to actively seek it out. So, as I pursued a stellar education in the sciences, my biggest challenge was to actually find engaging and feasible opportunities that allowed me to accelerate and deepen my interest in the science/medical field. Such opportunities don’t often fall into one’s lap, and so I worked hard during high school to participate in programs that allowed me to hone in on my newfound fascination of science. In this circumstance, my outgoing personality and love for people became my greatest asset. 

Through networking and maintaining relationships, I gained access to many “hidden” resources in the STEM field like medical conferences, summer programs and Governor’s School. You see, mastering the skill of access isn’t that hard when you have a team of people willing to help you.

UNCF: What challenges do you anticipate in your first year of college? How do you plan to address them?
SH: I think my biggest challenge will be transitioning from a "high school mentality" into a more mature, capable version of myself ready to take on society. That includes all aspects, like figuring out how to study more effectively, learning to incorporate myself effortlessly into professional America, maintaining a balance of interests in my life, etc. I plan to achieve this by engaging myself in many productive activities, seeking new experiences and removing all limiting mental restrictions so that I can grow intellectually as much as possible.

...mastering the skill of access isn’t that hard when you have a team of people willing to help you.


About the UNCF STEM Scholars Program

In every city and town across America, bright, talented and motivated African American students are hungry for opportunity and seeking better futures through pursuing a degree in science, technology, engineering or math—the STEM disciplines. To address the national challenge and to support a more robust STEM pipeline of African American scholars, innovators and tech entrepreneurs, the Fund II Foundation and UNCF have established the Fund II Foundation UNCF STEM Scholars Program, a 10-year initiative designed to identify and provide scholarship and academic support for 500 talented African American high school students who aspire to earn STEM degrees and to pursue careers in STEM fields.



About the Fund II Foundation UNCF STEM Scholars Program

The Fund II Foundation is contributing $48 million for the STEM Scholars Program.

UNCF partnered with The Fund II Foundation to establish a scholarship program to help African American students seeking careers in STEM fields. Over a period of five years, The Fund II Foundation UNCF STEM Scholars Program is identifying 500 African American high school students who are determined to pursue careers in STEM fields. UNCF STEM Scholars will receive scholarships, internships, mentoring, and other tools to help them reach their goals. The Fund II Foundation is contributing $48 million for the STEM Scholars Program.

With African Americans making up less than five percent of the science and engineering workforce, and less than one percent of all tech startups, this partnership addresses this challenge. The Fund II Foundation UNCF STEM Scholars Program will create a robust pipeline of African American students well prepared to have careers in the tech industry and to become the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs.


Click here for additional information on the scholarship

STEM Scholar Program: FAQs

Get answers about the program.

1. Do I need to be African American to apply?

Answer: Yes, a program requirement includes identification as an African American.


2. Do I need to be a STEM major in college to qualify?

Answer: Yes, a focus or major in STEM is a requirement for awarding and also for renewal of funding as a scholar.


3. What is the GPA requirement?

Answer: All applicants must have a 3.0 GPA.

4. Can I study outside of the United States?

Answer: No, a scholar must attend an accredited college within the United States as a full-time, degree-seeking, first-year student.


5. What does the program consider STEM majors?

Answer: Biological/life sciences, physics, chemistry, computer science/engineering, information sciences, engineering (industrial, mechanical, electrical, or chemical) and mathematics.


6. When does the application close?

Answer: Tuesday, January 16, 2018


7. When will I be notified of my application status?

Answer: The week of May 28, 2018

8. What does “up to $25,000” in funding mean?

Answer: The UNCF STEM Scholarship provides last-dollar funding. The total amount owed to your institution is subtracted with scholarships, grants, and aid in your package along with your expected family contribution (EFC). Your financial aid office calculates your financial package and reports the remaining amount to us. The STEM Scholarship then provides funding up to $2,500.00 each academic year for freshman and sophomore years and $5,000 for junior and senior years. A $5,000 stipend is available for an approved STEM related internship.

More questions? Contact UNCF  with any additional questions—Email: stem.scholars@uncf.org 

STEM Scholars Scholarship Overview

The UNCF STEM Scholars Program is a ten-year initiative designed to identify and provide scholarship and academic support for a total of 500 talented African American high school students who aspire to earn STEM degrees and to pursue careers in STEM fields.


The application process is closed for 2018. Visit UNCF.org/Scholarships for other opportunities.

The program enables highly capable young people to pursue undergraduate STEM majors and prepares them for successful careers in a variety of STEM professions. The application is open for high school seniors who are entering college as college as first time freshmen in fall 2018.


To qualify, applicants must:

  • Be African American/Black
  • Be a citizen, legal permanent resident or national of the United States
  • Have a cumulative GPA of 3.0 on an unweighted 4.0 scale and have pursued a rigorous course of study in high school
  • Have a demonstrated high level of academic performance in math and science, evidenced by a minimum unweighted GPA of 3.0 (4.0 scale) in math and science courses including pre-calculus
  • Have demonstrated financial and unmet need as measured by the student's college or university
  • Show evidence of readiness for and commitment to pursue
  • STEM majors, including: Biological/life sciences, Physics, Chemistry, Computer science/engineering, Information sciences, Engineering (industrial, mechanical, electrical or chemical), Mathematics
  • Complete all of the application essays
  • Arrange for a letter of recommendation to be submitted via application portal
  • Be enrolled for the first time at a U.S.-located, accredited college or university (with the exception of students concurrently pursuing a high school diploma) in the fall as a full-time, degree-seeking, first-year student
  • Complete and submit the application by the deadline of January 16, 2018 11:59 PM EST/9:59 PM PST



  • Submission of one (1) letter of recommendation submitted:
    • A high school STEM teacher
    • A STEM program sponsor (an individual who has engaged the student in a STEM program during the school year and/or summer, and who can provide insight into the student’s academic performance and potential for success in pursuing a STEM degree)
    • Completion of all Essays
    • Completion of Application form to include demographic information + Student record of leadership & community service record



Here are some things you can do to prepare for submitting a competitive application:

  • Begin thinking and talking to parents, counselors and teachers about your plans and what you will need to do to be ready to be a strong candidate for college admission and student aid.
  • Carefully consider which of your teachers and STEM program sponsors to ask for a letter of recommendation. They will help us better understand what type of student you are by providing insight into your academic performance and potential.
  • Apply for federal student aid. Go to www.FAFSA.ed.gov to see and become familiar with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and to get more information on federal student aid. If you are a finalist, we will use this form to confirm your citizenship and better understand your financial need.
  • Review your transcript to be sure that your GPA and the courses you have taken make you eligible for this program. And be sure to keep your grades up so that your mid-year transcript is positive.
  • Let us get to know you through your essays and help us to better understand your interests, goals, motivation and experiences that have shaped your decision to pursue an undergraduate STEM degree.



  • Tiered tuition scholarships:
    • Up to $2,500 per academic year for freshmen and sophomores, $5,000 for juniors and seniors, and an additional
    • Up to $5,000 for students whose academic programs require a fifth year
  • Scholarships are renewable for five undergraduate years, contingent upon:
    • Maintenance of a 3.0 (out of 4.0) grade-point average + Continued full-time enrollment to degree in an eligible STEM major
    • A $5,000 stipend based on a STEM-related project/internship of the student's interest
  • Academic support and mentoring
  • Access to online academic support service and resource platform and other STEM-discipline support services

Participation in:

  • K-12 STEM Summer Institute (pre-college)
  • UNCF Student Tech Empowerment Workshop
  • Career-development support:
  • Mentoring, training and education
  • Access to entrepreneurial training in launching new tech ventures through competitive Venture Accelerator program + High school/pre-college STEM summer leadership institute


UNCF STEM Student Spotlight: Michael Bryan II

"STEM is kind of the root of how everything operates." Meet this ambitious Georgia Tech student.

About the Donor: The Fund II Foundation

A deep commitment to advance social change

The Fund II Foundation is a charitable foundation, at the heart of which is a deep commitment to advance social change, create opportunity, respect and protect the environment, and preserve our culture. Fund II Foundation is focused on improving lives and opportunities for African American and other vulnerable populations. Fund II Foundation makes grants to 501(c)(3) public charities in five areas: 1) preservation of the African American experience; 2) safeguarding human dignity by giving a voice to the voiceless and promoting human rights; 3) improving environmental conservation and providing outdoor education that enables people of all ages and backgrounds to enjoy the numerous benefits of the great outdoors; 4) facilitating music education, particularly in primary and secondary schools, to nourish both the mind and the soul; and 5) sustaining the uniquely American values of entrepreneurship, empowerment, innovation and security. For more information on Fund II Foundation, visit www.fund2foundation.org.           

UNCF STEM Scholars News

Media coverage of the program

(7/12/18) UNCF Announces Third Class of UNCF® STEM Scholars Through $48M Investment From Fund II Foundation
 Five-year commitment will invest in and empower the next generation of African American STEM innovators and tech entrepreneurs

(10/18/17) UNCF HBCU ICE Summit Opens Silicon Valley Doors to Talented Students
UNCF conference Oct. 25-29 addresses the diversity gap in Silicon Valley

(7/17/17) UNCF Announces Second Class of UNCF® Stem Scholars Through $48M Investment from Fund II Foundation
 Five-year commitment will invest in and empower the next generation of African American STEM innovators and tech entrepreneurs

(11/14/16) HBCUs Join Silicon Valley Tech Companies for UNCF’s Fourth Annual HBCU I.C.E. Summit
UNCF Conference Nov. 16-19 Empowers Future African American Innovators and Aims to Address the Diversity Gap in Silicon Valley

(7/28/16) UNCF Announces Inaugural Class of Fund II Foundation UNCF Stem Scholars
$48 million commitment over five years will invest in and empower the next generation of African American STEM innovators and tech entrepreneurs

(3/7/16) UNCF and Fund II Foundation Launch a $48 Million Scholarship Program to Support African American Students Pursuing STEM Careers
Initiative aims to create a diverse pipeline of employees in the technology and innovation sectors 


UNCF STEM Scholars Blog Coverage

Blogs around the country mention UNCF Fund II Scholars


Philadelphia Tribune: UNCF scholarship benefits science, engineering students
Two Philadelphia area students, including 18-year-old Asia Kaiser, are among the top-performing African American high school students in the country, awarded up to $25,000 in scholarship funds and stipends for internships in science, technology, engineering and math from the United Negro College Fund. >> Read More


Houston Chronicle: Crosby student included in Fund II Foundation UNCF STEM Scholars
With grant support from Fund II Foundation totaling approximately $48 million, UNCF today announced its first class of Fund II Foundation UNCF STEM scholars (STEM Scholars) and eight are from Texas. Included in the students from Texas is Emanuel Wasson of Crosby High School who will be attending Marquette University in Wisconsin, majoring in engineering. >> Read More


Black Enterprise:UNCF Announces Inaugural UNCF Stem Scholars Awards
With grant support from Fund II Foundation totaling approximately $48 million, UNCF has announced its first class of Fund II Foundation UNCF STEM scholars. >> Read More


Forbes: Forbes “30 Under 30” Selects UNCF STEM Scholar
As a finalist in the 2016 Intel Science Talent Search, Augusta Uwamanzu-Nna discovered that adding a nanoclay ingredient called attapulgite to cement slurries improves the undersea cement seals that keep offshore oil wells from leaking. >> Read More


The Elmont (NY) Excelsior: Harvard Freshman, Augusta Uwamanzu-Nna, Stars in PSA for STEM Education
Recent Elmont graduate, Augusta Uwamanzu-Nna, is blossoming right before our very eyes! The Class of 2016 Valedictorian, who made news headlines in April after she was accepted into each of the eight Ivy League Universities, recently starred in a thirty-five-second promotional video (released on July 28th) for the Inaugural Class of Fund II Foundation UNCF STEM scholars. >> Read More


West Orange (FL) Times and Observer: Windermere Prep grad one of 100 in nation to win prestigious STEM scholarship
Gregory Person, a recent Windermere Preparatory School graduate and UNCF Stem Scholar, is heading to Xavier University of Louisiana to begin his education in hopes of becoming a medical researcher.>> Read More


Vanderbilt University: Peabody professor to address impostor syndrome
Noting her “extraordinary work on African Americans in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics)” issues, a Vanderbilt professor has been invited to give the keynote speech at the UNCF STEM Scholars Program Orientation and Student Leadership Summit. Ebony O. McGee, assistant professor of education, diversity and STEM at Vanderbilt’s Peabody College of education and human development, will speak at noon July 30 at Emory University Conference Center in Atlanta. Her talk is titled “It’s Not Just in Your Head: Institutional Contexts that Position Black STEM Students as Impostors and What You Can Do About It. >> Read More

The New Orleans Advocate: Xavier among schools to get first class of UNCF STEM Scholars, and other news of higher education
With grant support from Fund II Foundation totaling approximately $48 million, UNCF has announced its first class of Fund II Foundation UNCF STEM scholars. >> Read More


Pikesville (MD) Patch: Senior Carthan is UNCF STEM Scholar
St. Timothy's senior Alarin Carthan is among the inaugural cohort of high school students to be awarded the Fund II Foundation UNCF STEM Scholarship, valued at $20,000 over four years. Carthan, who is from Douglasville, Georgia, will attend George Washington University's School of Engineering and Applied Sciences in the fall. >> Read More



STEM Institutional Portal

For Financial Aid Officers


Financial Aid Officers, click the link below to manage the Fund II Foundation UNCF STEM Scholars award, by providing financial certifications, verifying enrollment, and more.


Manage Awards