Elena Frogameni of Northampton named Rhodes scholar

  • ELENA FROGAMENI SUBMITTED PHOTO

  • Elena Frogameni offers her remarks after accepting the Daily Hampshire Gazette Young Community Leader award during a reception at the Hadley Farms Meeting House, April 25, 2018. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

  • Elena Frogameni, seen here as a senior at Northampton High School, talks to a group of reporters who produced “The Transcript,” a weekly student news broadcast, Monday, March 26, 2018, in the school’s technology room. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 11/22/2021 4:35:51 PM

SOUTH HADLEY — The past 48 hours have involved “a lot of screaming and crying” for Elena Frogameni. But in a good way.

On Saturday, the Mount Holyoke College senior was named one of the country’s 32 recipients of the Rhodes scholarship, one of the most prestigious international fellowships in the country. Frogameni is the second-ever Rhodes scholar from the college, and the first in more than 25 years, according to the school. The scholarship provides full financial support for scholars to pursue degrees at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom.

“It absolutely means the world to me,” Frogameni said by phone Monday. “I’ve never been out of the country, I never thought I’d be able to go to grad school right away … This is opening so many doors to me. It’s totally overwhelming.”

Frogameni has been a leader since her days at Northampton High School, where she graduated in 2018. She was a co-founder of the school’s weekly news broadcast, “The Transcript,” which won three Student Emmys in its first year. She also served in student government, working in her sophomore year to write a new constitution that made the student union more representative, and was the school’s student representative to the Northampton School Committee.

That work, as well as her work co-founding the Young Democrats club at Northampton High and organizing demonstrations against gun violence, earned her the Gazette’s 2018 Young Community Leader Award.

“This is something that I know I will continue to work on, to fight for and to advocate for, but it was also an amazing opportunity to see new student organizers who are fighting for this,” Frogameni said at the time.

Frogameni said she has heard from many people since winning the scholarship. One of them was Northampton High technology department chair Jeromie Whalen, who she said has been a mentor to her during and after high school.

Whalen said Monday that he was thrilled but unsurprised by Frogameni’s success. He said she is somebody who makes her learning experience her own, following an unconventional path to pursue her own track to success.

“She’s just an amazing person and it’s shown throughout her career,” Whalen said.

After high school, Frogameni went off to Mount Holyoke College, where she is majoring in politics and French. She is the president of the Mount Holyoke College Democrats, a varsity squash player and a former intern at the Department of State.

In a statement, Mount Holyoke College President Sonya Stephens said that Frogameni is “an extraordinarily accomplished student who is richly deserving of the honor.”

“At Mount Holyoke, she has grown as both an intellectual and an advocate, engaging throughout as a leader on campus, in her community and everywhere that her work and interests have taken her,” Stephens said. “Her ability to ask searching questions, to engage with ideas about policy and its impact on ordinary people and her transnational perspective and commitment are all central to her motivation to pursue graduate study at Oxford University.”

With the scholarship, Frogameni said she intends to pursue one-year master’s degrees in public policy as well as global governance and diplomacy. She will graduate in the spring from Mount Holyoke.

Born and raised in Florence, Frogameni said she has never lived outside the Pioneer Valley. But that will change next fall when she and 31 other students from across the country will attend the University of Oxford together.

“I’ve been so blessed to be in this community,” Frogameni said. “The way that the Northampton community has helped me grow into the leader I hope I can be, it’s amazing.”

Dusty Christensen can be reached at dchristensen@gazettenet.com.

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