, Salem, MA

Local News

December 4, 2013

Rhodes Scholar attended Greenhouse School

SALEM — The little Greenhouse School has made the big time.

One of its former students, Jessica Wamala, is a Rhodes Scholar. She is one of 32 young Americans named last week as recipients of the prestigious scholarship.

Although Greenhouse officials aren’t taking the credit, they are understandably proud of Wamala, the younger sister of Greenhouse School co-Director Julia Nambalirwa-Lugudde.

“We always knew she was a star,” Nambalirwa-Lugudde said in a statement released by the independent school on Loring Avenue.

“...It’s a phenomenal achievement, and, of course, it’s all hers,” said co-Director Dan Welch, the husband of Nambalirwa-Lugudde. “We’re just bursting with pride.”

Wamala, 23, spent about six years at Greenhouse School while living in The Point neighborhood with her mother, a native of Uganda, according to Welch. She now lives in New Hampshire.

Wamala graduated magna cum laude last spring from Villanova University, where she majored in political science, Arab and Islamic studies, and global interdisciplinary studies. Currently, she is studying for a master’s degree in political science at Villanova.

She is a Gates Millennium Scholar, a full scholarship funded by Bill and Melinda Gates for students with substantial financial need. She interned at the U.S. Embassy in Belgrade and at the State Department, has done extensive work with the homeless in Philadelphia, and “walked on” to the Villanova women’s basketball team her sophomore year and was a co-captain.

The Greenhouse School was founded 30 years ago by the late Patricia Jennings-Welch and is now run by her son, Dan, and his wife.

The nontraditional school, which is housed in a former greenhouse, serves about 20 preschool through middle school students from area communities, with a focus on children from lower-income and immigrant families, according to the school’s website.

Although small in size and limited in resources, the Greenhouse School now boasts a Rhodes Scholar.

“We’re proud of her,” Welch said, “but we can’t help but be proud that she learned reading, writing and adding here.”

Wamala and the other Rhodes Scholars will enter Oxford University next fall.

Tom Dalton can be reached at

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