CHICAGO, June 16, 2023 - The American Heart Association has awarded its Girls with Heart scholarship to three Illinois high school seniors. One $5,000 scholarship, and two $2,500 awards were given to students who exhibit strong academic performance and leadership skills, and intend to major in a science, technology, engineering, or math-related field in college.

This year’s three scholarship winners have interests spanning from biochemistry and neuroscience to mental health and biology. The 2023 Girls with Heart scholars are:

  • Avril De la Cruz, Chicago, Illinois
  • Alexandra Soto, Lake Villa, Illinois
  • Dalia Zizumbo, Cicero, Illinois

In addition to their varying scientific interests, each of this year’s winners has a personal connection to health equity issues through having had to advocate for loved ones or by being patients themselves.

“I’ve known since I was young that I wanted to become a physician,” said Avril De La Cruz. “There’s never been anything else I’ve wanted to pursue as a career, especially after witnessing my parents struggle with discrimination and malpractice at hospitals. From that day on, I (homed) in on the inequalities that inhibit the lives of underserved communities.”

Girls with Heart scholar Dalia Zizumbo chronicled her experience translating for her mother in the doctor’s office. “As my mom’s ‘professional translator’ at the age of eleven I was expected to know how to translate full conversations between her and her doctor from English to Spanish, which was a major responsibility,” said Zizumbo. “I wondered if there was more diversity in the medical field, where doctors and nurses spoke more than one language, would patients feel more comfortable and have an easier time communicating their issues and lead to better outcomes?”

The Girls with Heart scholarship is open to students who have attended Chicago’s STEM Goes Red event, a day-long program geared toward exposing high school-aged girls to the possibilities of a career in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). During the day-long event, students hear from speakers in STEM-related fields, attend workshops, and participate in hands-on activities about STEM topics and careers, with a focus on heart health.

While heart disease remains the number one killer of women, women are also disproportionately absent from STEM careers and STEM majors at post-secondary institutions. Research indicates that out of every 100 female undergraduates, only 12 will graduate with a degree in a STEM subject. Although women fill close to half of all jobs in the U.S. economy, only 25% of STEM jobs are filled by women. 

“Having participated in the STEM Goes Red event and seeing all the successful women having an interest in speaking to girls like me, showed me that it is possible to make it in the STEM field,” said Alexandra Soto, scholarship winner.

“Giving away this scholarship is a needed method for filling the girls-in-STEM pipeline with eager students looking to make a difference in their communities,” said Candice Schaefer, senior director of development for Go Red for Women. “Our three winners this year are already laying the groundwork for their futures as change agents in the world around them and we are proud to be part of their journey.”


About Go Red for Women
The American Heart Association’s signature initiative, Go Red for Women, is a comprehensive platform designed to increase women’s heart health awareness and serve as a catalyst for change to improve the lives of women globally. While nearly 80 percent of cardiac events can be prevented, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in women, claiming the lives of 1 in 3 women. For 18 years, Go Red for Women has encouraged awareness. The movement harnesses the energy, passion and power of women to band together and collectively wipe out heart disease.

About the American Heart Association
The American Heart Association is devoted to saving people from heart disease and stroke – the two leading causes of death in the world. We team with millions of volunteers to fund innovative research, fight for stronger public health policies and provide lifesaving tools and information to prevent and treat these diseases. The Dallas-based association is the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary organization dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke.

For Media Inquiries:  
Jorie Goins,
For Public Inquiries: 1-800-AHA-USA1 (242-8721) and