Damiana Andonova came to the North Shore from a small town in Bulgaria when she was in second grade.

Her parents immigrated five years earlier.

“We had sheep and goats,” she recalls. “To make do was difficult.”

Her experience as an immigrant has given Damiana a broad worldview and a strong desire to give back—a passion that this well-rounded student channels through science and art.

Inspired by her father’s interest in art, Damiana has studied at the Evanston Art Center and the Art Institute of Chicago. She’s also worked as an intern at EAC and as an art facilitator in Family Programs at the Art Institute. Last year, Damiana created her own photography exhibit to raise awareness for ovarian cancer, a disease that affected both her grandmothers.

The small project for her photography class morphed into a fundraiser, with Damiana securing food donations, raffle prizes and a guest speaker—Dr. Gustavo Rodriguez of NorthShore University HealthSystem, who spoke about how to prevent ovarian cancer. She donated the $1,000 she raised to the Auxiliary of NorthShore University HealthSystem at Evanston and Glenbrook Hospitals, and became a volunteer blogger for the Auxiliary’s American Craft Exposition (ACE), which also raises money for ovarian cancer and breast cancer research.

Damiana has been conducting high-level scientific research since her freshmen year and competing in the Illinois Junior Academy of Science, winning gold medals and awards every year. Her goal is to become an obstetrician, which she attributes to her mother’s work as a doula and helping raise her younger sister, who is nearly 10 years younger than her.

She remembers being at the hospital for her sister’s birth: “I saw this wonder: A lady in a white coat comes in and says, ‘Everything is going to be okay.’ I want to be that lady.” And, she would like to help women in Third World countries, she says: “There are too many women delivering in horrible conditions, and they don’t deserve it.”

In the fall, Damiana heads to Brandeis University, where she received a full scholarship.

In the meantime, she’s deeply involved with global issues fundraisers at her school, including Dance Marathon, an event has raised more than $80,000 in past years. She plans to keep her dual passions—art and science—alive in the future.

“In my ideal world, I would own a gallery next to my private practice,” she says. “Art will always be a part of my life.”

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