Deqa Aden, Worcester Academy graduate and advocate for victims of gender violence, named a 2022 Obama Scholar 

“I am honored to be become an Obama Scholar. This new milestone is dedicated
to all those young Somali girls who cross my path and inspire me to never
take my opportunities for granted and to always be 
in service of others.”
Deqa Aden
2022 Obama Scholar
Worcester Academy, Class of 2014


WORCESTER, Mass. (September 14, 2022) — Worcester Academy is proud to announce that Academy alumna Deqa Aden, Class of 2014, a Somaliland native and an advocate for victims of gender violence, has been named a 2022 Obama Scholar by the Barack Obama Foundation.
As an Obama Scholar, Deqa is one of 25 rising leaders from around the globe who have been selected to participate in leadership development programming at the Obama Presidential Center. The goal of the programming is to empower scholars to take their work and research to the next level while actively pursuing the public good.
Deqa, after learning she was named an Obama Scholar, said she is indebted to all the schools that “took a chance” on her—including Worcester Academy—which offered unwavering support.
“I am honored to be become an Obama Scholar,” she said. “This is where my work will start—to establish an advocacy center for victims of gender-based violence in Somaliland.  This new milestone is dedicated to all those young Somali girls who cross my path and inspire me to never take my opportunities for granted and to always be in service of others.”
She said she it is her hope to empower victims of gender violence in Somaliland by providing access to legal servicesmedical services, and psychosocial services.
Deqa, a University of Chicago Pearson Fellow for the Study and Resolution of Global Conflicts, is completing her master’s at UChicago’s Harris School of Public Policy. Prior to attending UChicago, she graduated with a bachelor’s in political science and psychology from Grinnell College.
Most recently, she was manager for business incubator Harhub in Hargeisa, Somaliland. Harhub mentors and invests vulnerable youth. Deqa also has worked at the World Bank handling projects with a focus on marginalized youth and women. It was there she said she found her passion for working at the nexus of economics and gender politics.
Arriving in Worcester in 2012, Deqa attended Worcester Academy through a partnership with the Abaarso School of Science and Technology in Somaliland. Abaarso was founded by Academy alumnus Jonathan Starr, Class of 1994, who serves as headmaster. It was the generosity of another Worcester Academy alumnus, Harry Emmons, Class of 1960, and his wife, Lori, who then made it possible for Deqa to pursue a secondary education in the U.S.
While at the Academy, Deqa was dedicated to her studies and determined to make the most of the opportunity. She participated in the school’s many extracurricular activities, including the Dexter Prize speaking contest—which she won. She also gave back to the community in a number of ways, including tutoring Worcester public school students in music. Her tenacity and contributions led to her being recognized as an “A+ Student” by Channel 5 in Boston.
Key components of the Obama Scholarship Program include:
  • Leadership development workshops and conversations designed to improve scholars’ ability to tell the story of their work, reflect and refine their leadership approach, and build sustained, personal resilience.
  • Hi-level conversations with thought leaders across all sectors, especially Institute of Politics Pritzker Fellows, a diverse cohort of elected officials, diplomats, policymakers, activists, nonprofit leaders, and journalists.
  • Development and refinement of an action plan centered around their initiative of focus and their future vision for their work.
  • Tailored support including an executive coach and expert assistance in strategic communications and fundraising.

Founded in 1834, Worcester Academy is an independent day and boarding school for boys and girls in grades 6 to 12 (and postgraduates). Students at the Academy hail from 14 states and 13 countries. Located in the thriving city of Worcester, the Academy provides an exceptional and time-befitting educational experience that fosters personal growth, nurtures a sense of belonging and well-being, and develops intellect and understanding through authentic community engagement and real-world experiences. Students, who are joyful and curious, define what it means to “Achieve the Honorable” (the school motto) and are equipped to honorably impact the world wherever they go.
As expressed in its mission, Worcester Academy exists to instill in its students the desire to learn throughout life, to engage passionately with the world around them, and to be honorable persons of strong and resourceful character. The Academy sees its Core Values— Honor, Respect, Community, Personal Growth, and Challenge—as essential to the mission of the Academy and as testimony of its beliefs and commitments.
The following is a list of some of the many community partners of Worcester and initiatives aimed at supporting its neighborhood and city.
Afternoon Tunes Program, the George I. Alden Trust, The Campbell Fund for Community Service, the Fred Harris Daniels Foundation, Grafton Street School, Greater Worcester Community Foundation, the George F. & Sybil H. Fuller Foundation, MetroWest/Greater Worcester Habitat for Humanity, St. John's Church, The Mildred H. McEvoy Foundation, the Phyllis W. McGillicuddy Charitable Trust, the William J. McKee Jr. Charitable Foundation (WA Class of 1927), the Paul Morano Sr. Fund for Community Enrichment, the Nativity School, the WA Worcester Scholars Program, The Progin Foundation, Somaliland Abaarso Tech Scholarships, the WA Summer Scholars Program, WA Summer Camp Program Scholarships, Union Hill School Building Bridges Diversity Program, Union Hill School Student Tutoring, Vernon Street School, Worcester Community Fridge Project, the city of Worcester, and the Worcester Red Sox.

For information, contact Neil Isakson, Worcester Academy director of external communications, at 508-459-6918, or email