Meet the 2019 AWE x Nite Ize Summit Scholarship Recipient

If you’ve been following our Summit Scholarship updates on social media over the last month, you already know this much: the response to the $5000 free-ride-to-Nepal scholarship surpassed all expectations. 236 women from more than twenty countries applied, and the scholarship steering committee faced the difficult task of choosing just one recipient among hundreds of women with powerful stories and a demonstrated love for the outdoors.

The intent of the scholarship is to open up the empowering adventure of big mountain expedition climbing to a woman who typically would not be in a position to embark on such a climb without the scholarship’s assistance. As such, we were looking for candidates with a powerful story who demonstrate a credible financial need in addition to alignment with AWE’s mission and values. Ideally, we also wanted the scholarship recipient to be someone for whom the expedition would be a truly extra-ordinary experience: someone who hadn’t been to the Himalayas before, who hadn’t yet climbed big mountains such as Kilimanjaro or Cotopaxi, who hadn’t (yet) been able to pursue life-changing bucket list adventures around the globe.

We found our perfect candidate in Colorado’s Melissa Estep, who describes her evolution in the outdoors as follows:

Melissa (Photo Credit: Melissa Estep collection / Instagram)

Melissa (Photo Credit: Melissa Estep collection / Instagram)

“Through college, I had felt tied to my relationships with men to get out and climb or challenge myself. I think there are great things to be gained from sharing these experiences with men, but I felt too dependent to pursue them alone and consequently felt limited in what I could do. When I was told I couldn’t join a trip to Mt. Baker with male friends due to concerns over my abilities and emotional capacity for handling the situation, I decided I would do whatever it took to feel competent on my own. Climbing mountains is an incredibly empowering experience, and the opportunity to join other strong women makes it even more rewarding.”

Melissa embodies why AWE was created, and we are incredibly excited to have her join the expedition team for our upcoming Island Peak climb & Everest Basecamp trek as the recipient of the 2019 AWE x Nite Ize Summit Scholarship which will cover her expedition fee, a $500 stipend towards international air travel, and top-of-the-line trail and high altitude mountaineering footwear from LOWA Boots.

Welcome to the team, Melissa!! We can’t wait to share the trails of the Khumbu Valley with you and hopefully snatch a sunrise or two from high up on Island Peak, too.


Note: The quality of quantity of scholarship applications drives home the need for programs like this one, and we’re hoping to build a larger scale scholarship effort in future years. If you’d like to get involved as an individual or corporate partner or help in building this program, please contact us.

Sunny Stroeer