Impact Story: Meet Allie O., Paliwal Club of 100 STEAM Scholar

We recently announced the return of our ground-breaking Paliwal Club of 100, a program launched in partnership with the Ila and Dinesh Paliwal Foundation that’s intended to help fuel the dreams of pioneering women in the arts and sciences. 

We specifically offer two funding programs as part of the Paliwal Club of 100 program: the STEAM Scholars Fund  and the Music Scholars Fund

Today, we’re introducing you to Allie O., one of our previous STEAM Scholars (and a former 1,000 Dreams Fund Scholarship winner, too!).

This 25-year-old’s dream is to be a marine ecologist and scientific diver — and to dive and conduct research in Antarctica!

And she is making it happen!

With the Paliwal Club of 100 STEAM Scholarship, Allie was able to use those funds to help invest in a drysuit, which is a necessity for diving year-round in cold climates. “Being able to dive year-round will not only allow me to keep my skills up to speed — even in the depths of winter — but will also enable me to continue my dive education, as I hope to take an ice dive course in January or February 2024.”

With the microgrant from the 1,000 Dreams Fund Scholarship, she helped fund a semester away at Bigelow Laboratory, a marine science institute in Maine. At Bigelow, she was in a small cohort of students who took classes and got hands-on experience in both a state-of-the-art research institute and in the field on science cruises. 

“The highlight of this experience was being mentored in my own independent research project, working to understand the ecology of small organisms living in the seaweed in the Gulf of Maine!” Allie says. “With this project, I was able to get a true taste for field days, as I had the opportunity to go science diving for sample collections with my lab. I also grew a lot in my presentation skills, as I prepared for a talk on my research that I delivered at the end of the semester.”

This project has since become Allie’s senior capstone project — and she looks forward to hopefully presenting it at a conference this upcoming year.

Allie is also proof positive that it’s okay to change course along the way. Before heading to university, she took time to travel, do volunteer work with AmeriCorps, and get her associate’s degree. “When I graduated high school, I genuinely thought I would be enrolling in an ROTC program and joining the military,” she says. “Looking back, I realize that, at 18, I knew so little about what I wanted and what opportunities lay out there in the world.” 

As she learned more, she found her passion for environmental work, diving, and the ocean, but is still keeping opportunities open. “I don’t want to get too set on a possible future that I close doors to something great that I don’t even know exists right now,” she says. “My grandpa has always said that ‘life is what happens to you when you’re planning something else,’ and I couldn’t agree more.”

As for what’s next for Allie, she’s excited to be graduating with her bachelor’s degree in December 2023. While she’s considering graduate school, she plans to take a gap year to learn more about opportunities in marine sciences and diving. 

“This past year. I’ve found myself in more leadership roles — from 1,000 Dreams Fund’s Student Advisory Board, to leading other students in research projects and being a dive leader at my school — and I’m keen to lean into that side of me that I’ve been discovering,” she says.

“I should hopefully have my divemaster certification when I graduate, so I look forward to using some of my time away from school to travel and work as a diving professional or advance my dive and leadership skills further as a dive instructor.  There are a lot of possibilities and I’m really just excited to see where my life takes me next from here!”

Congratulations, Allie!

We’re so inspired by Allie — and we hope you are, too! We love seeing young women chasing their dreams in the STEAM space and beyond.

To learn more about 1,000 Dreams Fund and how you can support our work to fuel the deserving dreams of talented women, click here.