Abegya Berhanu

Abegya is a goal-oriented person who is determined to accomplish anything she sets out to attain. The need to always better herself and improve her community were instilled in her since she was a kid by her family, who understood that the only wealth you can never lose is the knowledge you acquire. She is determined to improve her community and educate its members about the different cultures and the rich diversity in their midst.

When she emigrated from Ethiopia in 6th grade, she was able to clearly see the different ways people treated her because of their unfamiliarity with her culture. Her experience as an outsider motivated her to help people understand each other by joining Multicultural—Rising Above Differences (M-RAD). Through M—RAD, of which she will be President next year, Abegya has planned events such as the It Takes a Village Luncheon for Black History Month and Disability Awareness Day. Because Abegya understands the feeling of being an outsider, her goal in life is to help appreciate the differences between each other that make them unique. She is also the next President of the Women’s Empowerment Club whose goal is to help women get the confidence and resources they need to be successful because she believes that race, economic status nor gender should keep a person from achieving their life goals.

Abegya is involved in multiple honor societies like National Honor Society, National Math Honor Society, National Social Studies Honor Society, National Technical Honor Society, and the National Art Honor Society. She is also involved in other clubs that help people develop and explore new talents, like the Knitting Club.

Abegya’s family is her main motivator. At a young age, she faced a difficult separation from her father, and when she reunited with him in America, and she became determined to focus on her education and giving back to her community, which had been her support system during the separation from her father. She dreams of being a computer programmer, volunteering in schools, and opening a library in Ethiopia to help others gain educational opportunities that will open doors for them.   

Alondra Barragan

Alondra Barragan is from a small Bavarian themed town in Washington named Leavenworth. When she first entered school, it was quite hard coming from an immigrant Hispanic background because she struggled with the language, but through the work ethic that her parents instilled in her and her own motivation, Alondra developed a love of school and learning. Alondra’s family has attended church regularly since she was young, and through this, she found a great passion for her community and serving others. While growing up has often been tough, she is excited to create a better future for herself by continuing to use the many characteristics that she has found along her journey: resilience, hard work, drive, organization, kindness, motivation, and compassion.

One of Alondra’s proudest achievements has been taking care of and teaching her two-year-old little sister. Alondra says, “My little sister has been both an inspiration to me, and a struggle that came into my life for the better.” She always helps her parents take care of her sister while also juggling school, clubs, community service, and work. Alondra is most proud of the amount of time that she gives to her community because of how many smiles she brings to others. For instance, she helped plan a fundraiser through the HOPE Project to send a student in Liberia to college. Additionally, Alondra is involved in a wide variety of extracurricular activities, such as Student United Way, a student lead non-profit organization that helps to provide funds for those local students who are in need financially, Interact, the community cup board, Key Club, M.E.Ch.A, Publications/Yearbook, Upper Valley Mend, and she is an Associated Student Body Representative for her 2019 class as their secretary. Alondra is very involved in all year-round sports, including swimming, soccer, tennis, dance, and cross country. She has also excelled academically by taking a rigorous course load and being in the top ten percent of her class and in honor society. Alondra says, “I want to set a strong base for myself to build off of so that I can be as successful as I strive to be.”

Alondra’s parents have both inspired her to get an education and motivated her to succeed.  She has used the gift they gave her of living in the United States to pursue a successful career path through getting her education and always taking advantage of every opportunity, and she knows that a bright future is waiting for her.

Angela Tocci

Angela Tocci is ambitious and hardworking. Her ability to see past the negatives in life and turn them into positives allows her to face any obstacle that comes her way. By doing this, she has set a clear path for her dreams and will do everything she can to achieve them. Angela conveys her gratitude for her own privileges in life by giving back to the community through various volunteer acts.

As a junior at Trinity High School, Angela has high hopes to improve the future and be a leader in both her school and the entire community. Her peers recognized Angela’s leadership and service and she was selected to be secretary of the National Honor Society. As secretary, one of the things that Angela oversees is recruiting students to donate blood for the Central Blood Bank. Donating blood to those in need is something Angela is very passionate about and just one way she gives back to others. This achievement has shaped Angela into a model student and citizen.

Along with serving as secretary, Angela is also involved in many extracurricular activities such as being a Candy Striper at the Washington Hospital, a member of the Students Against Destructive Decisions Club, Youth Traffic Safety Club, Math League, Oracle Computer Programming Club, Trinity Leadership Committee, and Chick-Fil-A Leadership Academy.

Angela’s inspiration in life is her family. They are her backbone and her strength. Their continuous support system is integral to her success and what she has experienced in the past has made Angela focus on improving herself for the sake of her mother and siblings. She believes that, “you must take the negative thoughts and actions you encounter and turn them into positives. This is the only way you will be able to overcome the most difficult challenge of all - life.”

Anubhav Thapaliya

Anubhav is highly enthusiastic, altruistic, and driven. Despite immigrating to the USA in 2007 without knowing any English, living in poverty for almost eight years, and attending inner-city elementary and middle schools, Anubhav, remained determined in his academic career while continuing to give back to society.

Anubhav is most pleased with his contributions in helping low-income and less fortunate students receive equal educational opportunities. Every other Friday, through the Kids Are Scientists Too (KAST) organization, Anubhav goes to the same elementary school that he attended to mentor 4th and 5th graders on STEM-related subjects. He is one of the lead facilitators who have the responsibility of overseeing the weekly experiments. Additionally, every Wednesday, during his school day, Anubhav walks over to the adjacent elementary school with a group of peers to tutor the students on various subjects including Math and English. Furthermore, Anubhav is a LIFT Mentor, a program that aims to increase the number of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology students from a low-socioeconomic background. Through all these activities, Anubhav’s passion shines through. Anubhav says his life’s aim is to “help other individuals, especially students, and ensure equal academic/professional opportunities for individuals of all socioeconomic backgrounds.”

Moreover, Anubhav has nearly 70 hours of volunteering service at INOVA Fairfax Hospital, where he contributed to Patient Support Services by helping patients with requests and discharges. A National Honor Society member, Anubhav is also an active member of his high school’s Writing Center where he tutors students weekly. He is fluent in five languages including Nepali, Hindi, English and Spanish, and tutors children in his neighborhood every other weekend.

Anubhav is inspired to achieve and succeed by his childhood growing up in Nepal. While living in Nepal, Anubhav became aware of the educational and healthcare divide that existed between different socioeconomic classes in various low-income countries. In 2014, a 7.9 magnitude earthquake decimated the capital of Nepal, destroying his childhood home. This earthquake worsened the plight of the poor scattered in the streets, millions of whom are homeless even now. Anubhav’s experience in Nepal, coupled with the support from his parents, inspired him to pursue a career in medicine, a field where he can provide equal quality care to all individuals.

Ashley Sandia

Danielle Sandia is a highly motivated Native American from Jemez Pueblo. She prefers to be called by her middle name, Ashley. Not only is Ashley from Jemez Pueblo, she is also from the Navajo Nation and Acoma Pueblo. She is 17 years old and seeks a career in the medical field. In college, she wants to major in pre-med studies and pre-law studies. She also wants to minor in journalism and politics. Ashley is determined to meet each goal she sets for herself because she wants to be a successful person and she wants to be seen as a role model for the kids in her community.

Ashley is most proud of being accepted in the University of New Mexico’s Cure Internship Program. This paid internship program is specifically meant for Native Americans and in it, you perform research on cancer in different communities. The program lasts about eight weeks. Ashley will work alongside actual researchers and will get a chance to positively impact her community by doing a community project. It will be a full-time job where she will work forty hours per week in the Health Sciences building. She looks forward to attending it in her summer 2018.

Ashley also has other achievements. When she participated in the Perry Initiative Program at the University of New Mexico, Ashley and her team won a prize for having the most effective and efficient method of repairing a bone. The bone they repaired with screws withstood the most amount of pressure at about 260lbs. In school, she received the Superintendent’s Honor Roll, Academic Excellence Award and Principal’s Honor Roll. She is a National Honor Society member as well. For her junior year soccer season, she received an Honorable Mention-All District award and a Varsity Letterman. She also received Outstanding Participation and Teamwork for soccer for the past three years she has been playing. Ashley is also most proud of her participation in Jemez Pueblo where she is involved in the Native American Youth Empowerment Program and participates in her traditional dances.

Ashley’s inspirations come from her community, herself, and her loved ones. Growing up, she witnessed drug abuse, alcohol abuse, homelessness, child neglect, suicide and poverty either in her community or her close friends. This is not the life she wants for herself or for her loved ones, so she started looking for opportunities to make herself and her community better. Ashley made a vow to herself when she was younger that she would become successful so that she can give her people a healthier life. As for herself, she goes after what she loves because it brings her joy. She continues to push ahead and she makes sure that the people she loves are right there with her.

Bonnie Chen

Bonnie loves the excitement and realization she feels solving challenging problems and discovering a new concept that was unknown to her before. Her ambitious mindset motivates her to put full effort toward everything she sets out to accomplish. She strives to achieve even through difficult family situations back at home. Bonnie believes that working hard and being passionate about what she loves to do will bring her success in the

Bonnie was named one of eight NY Youth Ambassadors for an inter-cultural youth leadership program- Project Bridge. She studied in Korea for 10 days, learning about Korean culture and traditions. In addition, she interacted with Korean students to bridge the gap between the US and Korea through cross-cultural immersion. Bonnie’s ultimate life goal is to “change the world” and being a part of this study tour program has pushed her closer to her goal.

Additionally, Bonnie is the Secretary of her school’s chapter of Society of Women’s Engineers where she hopes to build young women’s confidence in pursuing STEM careers by giving them the support and guidance through company visits and STEM college panel
workshops. She is also a part of her school’s Youth Against Child Trafficking Club as the webmaster, and through this club she aims to promote awareness of human trafficking that leads the student body to take action against it.

Bonnie’s father and grandparents are her biggest inspirations to reach for the stars. Her father has always silently encouraged her to keep pursuing her dreams. Despite only living with her grandparents until age five, Bonnie’s grandparents’ words still echo in her mind, “Starting from zero or nothing at all is not an embarrassment because one day you will fly higher than you ever expected.” Bonnie believes in this and will continue to strive for the highest possible excellence she can achieve. In addition, Bonnie thanks her Project Bridge Coordinators and Group Leaders for their utmost encouragement and for building her confidence!

Brandon Lopez

Brandon is just like corn. He is the compilation of many different kernels that make up who he is; each kernel of that corn holds an important piece of him. Of the countless maturing kernels Brandon possesses, one kernel is occupied by his insatiable drive to be the best version of himself that he can be. This is one of the many examples of the brilliant kernels that Brandon holds.

 Due to his experienced leadership skills and ambition to be the best he can be, Brandon was selected to serve as President of Student Council at ASTEC Charter High School as a junior. He wanted to be a part of something bigger where he could reach more students, thus prompting him to become District 10 Vice President. Although he was coming from a small high school, Brandon promised his district that he would not let this affect him while serving as their Vice President. He believes in breaking the stereotypes that are placed upon people based off common misconceptions.

Brandon realized the lack of student involvement in his school and knew there was potential to be tapped. Along with a good friend, he helped create a Spirit Club that solely focused on improving the school’s student involvement and raising the number of student leaders. Although very successful, he acknowledges there is still work to be done and is creating a Hispanic Student Association in his school. Brandon views the lack of Hispanic leaders in his community as an opportunity where he can help other Hispanic scholars also break the stereotypes of being a minority by becoming the leaders of tomorrow and exceeding expectations. In his community, Brandon also serves in the League of United Latin American Citizens. In this council, Brandon aspires to diversify and unify the leaders in Oklahoma City.

Ever since his parent’s divorce, Brandon vowed not to let this affect his course work. His drive to be the tallest stalk of corn in his patch buoyed him not to fall into the stereotypical cycle of not pursuing a higher education. Brandon plans on attending a nationally recognized university and receiving a Masters of Business Administration specializing in Human Resources. He believes someday his leadership and guidance can be shared by those who have taken the chance to follow him, and that he can supply the heat needed to transform their kernels of corn, into popcorn.

Carlos Fuentes

Carlos is an individual that understands the outcome of life is only predetermined by the level of aspirations you allow yourself to dream. He, the eldest in a single parent household, has faced a myriad of emotional, financial, and physical obstacles that have only allowed him to develop a greater sense of humility on his journey to success. He says, “In life, you will fall. But this cannot be the end all.  You must learn how to get back up, analyze the situation, and learn from your mistakes in order to eventually adapt and continue with your journey to greatness.” 

He takes pride on his advocacy efforts that have grown from an innate desire to use his voice in order to speak for those that cannot. Through his Speech and Debate team, he has taken his message on institutional oppression to various local, regional, state, and national competitions. Furthermore, he has spent an extensive number of hours tutoring and mentoring younger generations through community outreach efforts that emphasize the need to inspire at risk youth. He also spends time working on a board of directors for a non-profit all breeds rescue that has transported many of our furry friends to different states in an effort to help his hometown (Houston, Texas) control their predicament with stray animals and overpopulated animal shelters. 

Additionally, Carlos has always been utterly transfixed by his fascination for science. This predilection has pushed him to pursue an Associates Degree in Science while in high school, compete at various science fairs, participate in paid and unpaid internships, as well as volunteer his time in different hospitals and clinics. He hopes to one day make his own contributions to the medical field by not only aiding in his ambitious goal of curing many illnesses, but also diminishing the gap in minorities represented in the field.

Carlos understands that his start in life was not the most ideal. However, he says, “I would not want my life to have started any other way. The sacrifices that those around me have made in order to help me pursue my dreams has inspired me to work harder in order to accomplish them. As a result, I have learned to master the language of humility and patience, both of which simultaneously aid in striving for those bigger things in life.”

Chidinmma Egemonu

Chidinmma Egemonu is an observant young woman who seeks to improve her community daily. As an immigrant, she understands the importance of tenacity in the face of adversity, and she uses those values to encourage those around her.

Chidinmma enjoys all of the activities she participates in, but she has truly found her voice as a community leader as an ambassador for the Jacksonville Public Education Fund (JPEF), a non-profit organization committed to improving public education. She applied for the position during her junior year, hoping to depict the experiences of local public school students, such as herself, and provide a new perspective on how public education could be transformed. As an ambassador, Chidinmma has communicated with former school board members and has utilized her community engagement skills by promoting JPEF at local events. “I have become more passionate about increasing teacher retention rates in Jacksonville,” she says. “Teachers are the key to improving all communities, and I believe it is important to support them with the funds and resources they need to continue creating the leaders of tomorrow.”

Furthermore, Chidinmma follows her passions through other endeavors. She is the Vice President of Marketing for the Jacksonville Speak to Lead Gavel club, a Toastmasters-affiliated public speaking club for teenagers. She is also the Vice President of her school’s Model UN club, a member of the Mayor’s Youth Leadership Advisory Council, and a recent graduate of Youth Leadership Jacksonville, a program designed to help high-school students in Northeast Florida improve their leadership skills. Additionally, Chidinmma is a freelance photographer and recently won a gold medal and a silver medal at the National Scholastic Art and Writing Competition.

“My mother definitely encourages me to work hard,” Chidinmma adds. By observing her mother’s diligence and leadership skills, she pushes herself to make her mother proud of all the sacrifices she has made. She hopes to continue being a leader herself by becoming a lawyer and supporting those who don’t have a voice.

Daniella Passariello

Daniella Passariello is a self-motivated individual who follows with determination her own path in life. She was raised in Venezuela and attended Academia Merici School where she feels her personality flourished. Daniella moved to the United States at the age of ten due to the political, economic, and social unrest directly affecting her family. Despite the many challenges faced when moving to a new country and learning a new language, Daniella assembled her weakest traits and adapted them to move forward. Not only did she assist herself, but she made it her goal to also assist others.

Daniella founded her school’s Model United Nations Club and advocated for it to be accessible to anyone in the school regardless of their financial status. She focused on conducting many fundraisers at her school and starting various GoFundMe projects to help raise enough money to go to the club’s conferences free of charge for every club member. Daniella is also passionate about music and plays piano and clarinet. She attends high school at Miami Arts Charter School where she is the first chair clarinet player in the wind ensemble and full orchestra. Recently, Daniella auditioned and received a spot for a prestigious summer music program in Los Angeles. In this program, National Take a Stand Festival, she will have the opportunity to play under the direction of the conductor of Los Angeles Philharmonic and play at the Walt Disney Hall.

Considering her economic struggles at home, Daniella is hugely grateful for all the opportunities given to her and hopes to offer others like her the same opportunities she has been afforded. Daniella volunteers after school twice a week at a public elementary school where kids are given the opportunity to play instruments of their choice. Daniella adores going there and being a mentor to the children. She is fascinated by the eagerness the kids radiate to learn music every day. Keeping a global mindset, Daniella and her family send boxes filled with personal care items and medicines needed in Venezuela. Daniella likes to say that “a person should follow the traits of water; always go forward and confront your biggest obstacles.”

Daniella finds most of her support through her family. She understands the sacrifices her parents made for her and her sister to have a life filled with opportunities. She works tirelessly in academics and extracurricular activities to fulfill her desire to succeed and to fulfill her parents’ wishes. As said by Daniella, "My biggest hopes are to go through each day with a goal in mind to become a better version of myself and contribute every day towards a better world."

Desiree Cervantes

Desiree is very passionate and resilient when it comes to social injustice in the United States. She strives for academic success in the hopes of motivating other people of color to break the cycle of oppression. Desiree prioritizes educating people in her low socioeconomic community about the intersectionalities of identity that can often be an obstacle.

Desiree is very proud to say that she is part of the Pomona College Academy for Youth Success (PAYS), a highly-selective program that serves high-achieving youth of color. Through this program she partakes in rigorous courses that include a critical inquiry class and abstract math class. Along with these courses she will also be conducting STEM and sociology research with professors from Pomona College. At PAYS, Desiree learns how to cultivate her voice when talking about social injustice. She frequently expresses how PAYS has opened her eyes to higher level education and has reassured her that despite the hardships she has gone through, the academic success she earns will help her break the cycle of oppression.

Desiree is also very involved as a cabinet member of the Active Minds club at Nogales High School. She is very proud of her involvement in this activity because it has given her a platform through which she reaches out to the people of color at her school. With her Active Minds cohort, Desiree organizes demonstrations and teach-ins that offer insight about the origins and persistence of racial prejudices within the United States. Since Desiree comes from two immigrant parents, her aspiration in life is to get a good education even if that means she has to work 10 times harder for it. She wants to repay what her parents sacrificed for her in coming to the United States by breaking barriers and bring hope.

Dominic Arzadon

Dominic is a determined and motivated individual who values the importance of leadership through service. Living the realities of a first-generation immigrant, he understands the impact that he can make on the world through his experiences and strives to actively improve the conditions in his community.

Dominic is extremely proud of being a part of the Global Leadership Program 2017-2018 cohort, where he was selected as one of 20 high-achieving young leaders in the state of Hawaii. Through this program, Dominic developed a global mindset and became aware about issues addressed by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. This is where Dominic’s passion for sustainability and environmentalism grew as he learned about his role as a global citizen. Dominic was also chosen as a scholarship recipient for an eco-service study tour to Bali, Indonesia to learn more about solutions to complex issues such as sustainability, climate change, and food security. Says Dominic of this opportunity, “Traveling to Bali and being exposed to the work that is being done there would give me ideas on how I could contribute my part to finding solutions to the issues that not only affect Hawaii but also the world.”

In addition, Dominic is active in numerous extracurricular activities. He is the Vice President of Erudites Club, a college preparatory club that aims to provide college resources to economically disadvantaged students like himself. He is the community service chairperson for his class council as well as the service on focus chairperson for Key Club. He is also a member of Filipino-American (FilAm) Club, Pacific and Asian Affairs Council (PAAC), and both Class Week and Spirit Committees. Furthermore, Dominic won gold in the National French Contest (Le Grand Concours) as a freshman and was a finalist in the Olelo Youth Xchange student video competition where he and his group created a public service announcement on a timely issue concerning his state: mosquito-borne diseases.

“My parents instilled in me the importance of a higher education as it will be the key to a better future ,and I will not let them down” Dominic also mentions. He plans to major in Environmental Studies and/or Sustainability because he wants to lead the transition from environmental problems to environmental solutions.

Elizabeth Guadarrama

Elizabeth is a self-driven individual who seeks to inspire her community by leading through example. She is a high-achieving student who loves to be involved. Elizabeth describes herself as a behind the scenes leader and firmly believes that “leadership is not the position one holds, but the actions one takes.”

Ever since she was young, it was natural for her to serve others. For example, during her 8th grade year, she saw the need for an activity bus to travel in town and petitioned her school tirelessly to make it happen. From this experience, Elizabeth learned that being a reserved individual does not inhibit her ability to make a difference, particularly because of her willingness to get out of her comfort zone. One way she has challenged herself is by competing in a Junior Miss scholarship program and was chosen to represent her community by becoming Miss Royal City. She continues to advocate for positive change in her community.

Additionally, Elizabeth participates in a variety of extracurricular activities. One of the community service events she enjoys is Mini Cheer Camp because it allows her to share her passion for dancing with young children in her community. She also loves to volunteer at her local library and community food bank.

Currently, Elizabeth takes part in the Big Bend Community College dual enrollment program where she plans to receive her Associates Transfer Degree. At college, she expanded her horizons by becoming involved in different clubs. Her favorite one is M.E.Ch.A. because it has allowed her to educate herself about her culture while building new relationships. Since then, Elizabeth has become M.E.Ch.A’s treasurer.

Elizabeth is motivated by her desire to improve herself while helping others reach their potential. Her family shaped her into the hardworking and kind-hearted individual she is. Education is important to her because it gives her the tools necessary to improve herself in order to improve her community and the world around her. As the youngest of five siblings, she commented, “You’re not behind if you’re learning from those ahead.” She values her ability to help her community because her father taught her the importance of giving back by always reminding her, “It’s not what you have, but what you can give.” She aspires to live by this message.

Emmalynn Beck

Emmalynn Beck is an extremely ambitious young woman.  She thinks big and works hard to accomplish whatever she sets her mind to.  She has faced much adversity in her life but, in spite of those obstacles, has been determined to focus all of her energy into making the world around her a better place.

As a freshman, Emmalynn was a member of the Interact Club.  She participated in many fund raisers (collecting cans for the school’s annual can drive, working concession stands, etc.).  The club raised money to provide low-income families with holiday meals.

This past year, Emmalynn worked to create what is one of her greatest achievements thus far, a 12-hour-long dance marathon. The goal of this event was to raise money and awareness for the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals in conjunction with the University of Iowa Dance Marathon.  She contacted representatives of the University of Iowa who helped her begin the process. This event was the first ever hosted at her high school.  Emmalynn, who is currently her class secretary, worked with her student council and the high school principal to establish a committee that met weekly and sold t-shirts and bracelets at sporting events.  Through Emmalynn’s leadership, the group raised almost $1,000 for the Children’s Miracle Network.  The dance marathon will now be an annual event at her high school.

Additionally, Emmalynn is involved in a number of other activities and projects.  Recently she was able to help lead her Quiz Bowl team to a 2nd place title at the super conference. She also co-founded a book club to help share her love for literature. Emmalynn is the student representative on her high school’s SIAC (School Improvement Advisory Committee).  This committee meets to discuss the school’s programs, policies, and ways to improve the entire district.  She has stated that, “Serving on this committee has enlightened me as to what I want to work on in my life—-education and creating a better school system.” Another project she has taken part in involves the cleaning of a state park.

Each day, Emmalynn is trying to create a better environment both in her school and in her community.  She gives credit to her grandparents for their encouragement and for inspiring her to be a better person.  As she moves forward in her life, she hopes that she can help create better educational opportunities for the entire world.

Fatima Lopez

Fatima Lopez is a very dedicated and ambitious young women who constantly strives to improve her community. Being the daughter of immigrants, she finds it essential to advocate for those who are silenced by fear. Fatima accomplishes such things through public speaking and community service. Fatima believes that, with education, those in her community that have been neglected will have the power to succeed. She pushes herself to be an example to the youth in Richmond that feel trapped within stereotypes and a poor educational system.

Fatima believes in being humble, yet also being proud of accomplishments and hard work. She is a part of the Family Meeting Leaders at her school and discovered that many in her school struggle with mental health issues. Fatima knew she was in a position to serve as an advocate for those struggling with the stigma and misconceptions of mental health. She faced many obstacles, but after teaming up with another student, they finally created an opportunity to conduct a week of mental health awareness and organized a whole school meeting with 600 of her fellow students. At the end of the meeting, Fatima ran the student reflection and saw many stand up for the statement, "This meeting changed my perspective on mental health,” bringing her to sudden tears.  This was her proudest moment because she knew that all the hard and thoughtful work she had put into this would have long lasting effects on the school community and that this was the beginning of more advancements for breaking the stigma against mental health.

Additionally, Fatima is a very high achieving student that participates in many extracurriculars, and she is a three-season varsity athlete for cross country, cheer, and soccer. She is also part of the Key Club, is an Earth Team intern, and has received congressional recognition for being part of the Community Leadership Institute. Fatima has participated in rigorous summer programs in the outdoors with both NOLS and Outward bound, is a Yale Young Global Scholar, and will be attending Standford University for a cross country camp.

Fatima aspires to become a lawyer and advocate for those that are unlawfully and unfairly tried for their crimes. After living and growing up in a dangerous city she was exposed to events that made her afraid. After reflecting on her childhood, she is determined to change her community and every community that puts children in that environment. Growing up in a predominately Latino/ African American city she feels very connected with bringing justice to those who have been discriminated and forgotten.

Georgina Concha

Georgina “Gina” is an inspirationally driven scholar with high expectations for her future. She has survived waves of skeptical, dubious and doubtful people who try to drown away her ambition; however, that is the very thing that pushes her to prove them wrong. Georgina fights back by excelling in sports, giving back to her community, and living as an example for her family.

Gina is most proud of her work with her wrestling, track, and cross-country team, which she has captained three years for. As a freshman in high-school, she realized she could keep up with the star athletes at the front of the pack and soon realized could even pass them. Inspired by her coach, she realized she use this gift to get her through college since her family could never afford it. She also discovered that she could not face this challenge alone, for it requires a team effort. She began to inspire her teammates to push each other, encourage each other, hold each other accountable, and, most of all, work as a team. She never left practice until every one of her teammates had run across the finish line but, staying to finish it with them. This experience made her who she is today.

For as long as she could remember, Gina has always wanted to become a cardiothoracic surgeon, as she is astonished by the complex natural phenomenon that is the human body. She believes the human body is an incredibly efficient machine, and the key to it all is the human heart. She dreams of holding and working with that piece for the sake of saving someone’s life.  Sadly, time and time again, people try to warn her and suggest considering a career that’s “easier” for her, repeatedly saying it will take a toll on her mentally, physically, and emotionally. “I guess you can say I’m a little insane to consider such a competitive field of work,” says Gina. However, she will never give up and is fully confident in her capability to work hard toward her goal. The difficulties she encounters will only further her determination to achieve her objectives and rise above challenges, against all odds.

Gina is a fighter, who believes she can change the world (or at least her corner of it). She feels that it is her duty to not serve herself, but to serve others, and to do so with her reassuring smile and bright personality. 

Grace Kim

Grace is a driven, influential student dedicated to making change within her community through her volunteer service and STEM initiatives. Grace has dedicated most of her high school career to bringing her InvenTeam’s patent-pending invention into reality: The Money Sorter. This device will help members of the visually-impaired community differentiate between various US paper denominations and sort them into specific compartments of a wallet. Despite being the youngest team member, and one of the only girls on the team, Grace served as co-captain and helped her team win a $8,000 grant from the Lemelson MIT-Foundation to create their device. The team also raised $10,000 for additional building and travel fees for the annual EurekaFest at MIT. Currently, Grace and her team are in the process of patenting their device with supported by Microsoft.

In addition, Grace loves interacting with the students at her local elementary school by volunteering through the ELO SAIL (Extended Learning Opportunities - Summer Adventures In Learning) program, where she was a teacher’s assistant for 6 consecutive years. Grace also teaches young students through her KAST (Kids Are Scientists Too) Club at her school, of which she will be next year’s President. Grace accumulated over 1400 volunteer hours throughout her middle and high school career and is Korean Drums captain of the Peace Mission Korean Dance Group. Last year, they had the honor of performing at the John F. Kennedy Center during the JFK Centennial Celebration.

For the past three years, Grace has competed and led her school’s award-winning, 80-member Science Olympiad team. They won 3rd place at the state competition, and Grace herself won several 1st and 3rd place medals in her individual events. As a Model UN delegate, Grace won Best Delegate at the Regional Hood Model UN Conference and served as an intern for the Press Corp at the UNESCO Center for Peace International Model United Nations Conference. Grace completed an internship project at UMD Observatory which earned her 1st place in her County Science Fair. Grace plans to work with the Marshall Legacy Institute through her Peacemakers and Problem Solvers Club, collaborating with Colombian students to create solutions for humanitarian issues.

Grace has always been motivated by members of her family. Grace’s older sister inspires her to pursue higher education, as she received a full ride to Columbia University and was named a Jack Kent Cooke Scholar. Grace will always be thankful to her parents who came to the United States to provide their children a better education. Grace says, “I always ensured that I put my best foot forward in school, my extracurricular activities, and commitments because of everything that my parents and siblings sacrificed for me. All that I have accomplished has not only been for me; it has also been for the people who gave up so much for me to be in the position I stand now.”

Gracemary Nganga

Gracemary Wanjiru Nganga immigrated to St.Louis, Missouri from Kenya when she was nine years old. She says, “As I come from humble beginning, I know that I must work hard to make my parent’s sacrifice worthwhile.” She has been involved in various school and community activities where her strong ambition and shining personality allowed her to rise into leadership positions. As a leader, she strives to bring out the best in others. She has realized that helping others overcome their struggles and challenges also, ironically, helps her overcome her own struggles.

Gracemary is most proud of her work within the African community. She volunteers at Vitendo for Africa, a non-profit organization that supports immigrants, and Christ Covenant Church, her majority Kenyan church. She helps organize and execute various events and workshops meant to ease the integration of African immigrants into the American system such as tutoring, health fairs, sporting events, and cultural showcases. Additionally, she is the director of a mission trip to Kenya where she and a group of high school students are helping support the educations of several kids in underfunded orphanages.

At school, Gracemary participates in numerous extracurricular activities as well as maintaining a stellar academic record and enrolling in advanced classes. She is president of the Women of West club, where she leads discussions and action-based events focused on the empowerment of women, and is a founding member of Students Demand Change, working with her school’s administration to bring change around social justice issues and racial tensions that affect her community. She is the Huddle Leader for her school’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and as an athlete,  her Varsity Volleyball and Varsity Lacrosse teams have won several titles.

As a testament to her determination, Gracemary has embarked on her career interests early on. She is involved with research through the Young Scientist Program and was one of the 100 students across the nation to win the Emperor Science Award, allowing her to conduct cancer research at Washington University, St. Louis (WashU). Additionally, she is one of the 15 high school students chosen to work alongside a scientist at WashU through the Young Scientist Program, where she will be researching brain tumors, and she is a Saturday Scholar at Washu, learning more about the human anatomy alongside medical students. Additionally, she recently became a QuestBridge College Prep Scholar. In college, she hopes to major in immunology and then attain an MD/PhD.

As a first-generation college student, Gracemary is most inspired by her background, specifically her grandmother and parents who she hopes to make proud. As a research doctor, she plans to work in similar communities as the small village she came from. She says, “I’ve seen the effects the lack of affordable treatments can have, and in America, I’ve seen the complete opposite. That’s why I hope to work with underfunded communities to bring healthcare and community interventions.” With her determination and perseverance, she will no doubt follow the footsteps of Alexander Hamilton as she continues to break down barriers.

Halimo Farah

Halimo Farah is an outstanding student:  hardworking, conscientious, reliable, and responsible.  She is involved with many local community outreach programs in which she serves as a positive role model for young children. She has endured numerous obstacles in her life, such as learning English as a second language and adapting to a new culture. Halimo spends many hours throughout the week volunteering and enhancing the future of her community by speaking out against the problems her peers face.

Halimo is most proud of her position as a youth activist in the Hanna Youth Program, speaking to teens that are struggling and helping them make a positive change to secure a better future and life. The program helps children from many age groups, but she focuses primarily on high school students who are trying to make more of their lives. Halimo gives them the same information her teachers give her, such as tips for planning for college, meeting graduation requirements, volunteering, and more. When the program needs funding, Halimo helps by organizing fundraises in which the students help sell ethnic foods to different schools. Halimo says, “People all over the world endure many difficulties, so it is up to us to devout our time into helping them for society to progress.”

Halimo is also involved with Sharp Grossmont Hospital and Faces for the Future Coalition. Through these programs, Halimo works beside physicians and nurses as they go through their day to day schedules. She also worked alongside numerous community health organizations such as La Maestra Community Health and Stellar Care. After devoting many hours to these programs, Halimo shared what she learned with her peers and explained to them all the medical resources available to them. With this mindset, Halimo hopes that the students in her school will be able to understand the benefits of the different facilities and be better prepared in case of an emergency.

Halimo aspires to attain a college education and to major in Biology. Halimo wants to become a family practitioner so she can open a non-profit clinic whose goal is to give people of all ages free, great medical care. By doing this, families would not have to worry about how to pay their medical bills but instead focus on bettering themselves.  Halimo professes that, “there is no greater feeling then helping those who need it most.”

Jacquelin Flores

Jacquelin Flores is an exceptional student who goes above and beyond and enjoys challenging herself. She possesses strong leadership, organization, and commitment to her fellow peers.  She is mostly moved by her passion for animals and stands up for what she believes in.

Jacquelin is most proud of her achievement of earning a 4.5 weighted GPA during her junior year, which has placed her as her upcoming Salutatorian in her graduating class of 2019. Jacquelin has achieved this both through her hard work and dedication to Dual Enrollment and Advance Placement courses while in high school. In addition to her high GPA, the achievement of which she is most proud is having earned over 500 hours of community service.

Jacquelin is involved in many clubs and organizations in her school including Adelante Club, Key Club, National Honor Society, Junior Board, Teen Advisory Board, and Girls Varsity Tennis. She has also mentored migrant students in her local middle school, volunteered at her local Boys and Girls Club, and earned an internship with her city’s Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals where she actively learns how to care for sick and injured animals every Saturday.

Jacquelin’s farm-working parents inspire her to push further in her studies and make a difference in her community. Once a migrant student who traveled from Florida to Ohio every summer to follow the harvest of crops, she is now is motivated by her own resilience to achieve great goals. Appreciative of all her parents sacrificed in migrating from Mexico to the United States, Jacquelin is determined to make her parents proud and to continue creating a long-lasting impression on the world.

Jennifer Hernandez

Jennifer always sees the bright side of things. Along with being enrolled in a top STEM school, Jennifer dedicates her time to serving others and learning how to better her community. She participates in various student-led organizations while still being a motivated student in the classroom.

Jennifer is most proud of her ability to maintain a part time job outside of her eight classes, half of which are Advanced Placement, sports, extracurriculars, and community service. One community service activity Jennifer finds particularly meaningful is serving as a math instructor. Says Jennifer, “I love seeing that moment when everything clicks in a student’s head. It makes it all worth it.” As someone who comes from non-English speaking parents, it was hard for Jennifer to learn English outside of school. Jennifer’s English proficiency has grown immensely since then, and she is proud to have been awarded a Silver Key in the Scholastic Art and Writing Competition for her poem entitled “Cambio (Change).”

In addition to working a part-time job, Jennifer serves as a student representative on her county’s Minority Student Achievement Oversight Committee where she advocates for how to support students’ needs and increase minority enrollment in advanced programs. Since her freshman year, Jennifer has participated in the field hockey and lacrosse teams. Also, Jennifer competes as a member of the Model United Nations team, often winning local and national awards. However, the majority of her time is spent as class secretary, planning graduation, homecoming events, and fundraisers, as well as looking for new ways to improve student life in a challenging and competitive environment.

Jennifer looks forward to a career in public service, ultimately earning a position as a representative in the legislative branch of government. After college, she hopes to give back to her roots by creating a non-profit to increase education access in Latin America. Jennifer gets her inspiration from her parents, who both grew up in rural El Salvador and were unable to go to college, yet still encouraged her to do her best in school for a better future.

Julon White

Julon White is a proactive leader and a believer in the limitless capacity of improvement and advancement. His genuine concern for the well-being of others allows him to flourish as a servant leader. Julon is a model of tenacity because he approaches everything he does as an opportunity and makes the best of it. His altruistic qualities are demonstrated through his civic engagement.

Julon’s striking effort to promote awareness of the tremendous impact of cancer and raise money for a cure is honorable and widely recognized. Julon and other leaders in his school organized the Cancer Fund Drive Week, where students of his high school, Putnam City West, dedicated an entire week to fighting for a cure for cancer. He submersed himself in grueling work for over three-hundred hours over the course of nine months in preparation for the event. It was not only a success within the walls of his school, but also among his community. When asked about Cancer Fund Drive and his involvement in it, he noted that it, “did even more than just contribute to the fight to end cancer, it gave a diverse community the power to put their minds together to tackle any kind of problem that could be thrown at them.”

In addition, Julon is involved in many other extracurriculars in his school, community and state. Julon is a member of the Youth and Government program, whose purpose is to expose young people to politics and teach them how to make a difference with their voice. The past year, he held office in the program’s Senate as Chaplain. He’s the Director of Publications and one of three flag runners in The Sons and Daughters of Liberty, his school’s spirit club. Additionally, he holds the position of Junior Spirit Coordinator and Student Council Spirit President and got to represent his school at the High School Leadership Conference at the University of Oklahoma. Julon volunteered at the 2017-2018 Putnam City Special Olympics and spent the past summer volunteering on the buses at Southwest Baptist Church, acting as the song-leader. He is the captain of his school’s newly formed Academic Team. 

Julon aspires to be a neurologist in the future and uncover the mysteries of the brain. He draws inspiration from family, specifically his father and his late mother. When asked about how his family shaped him into the leader he is today, he answered,

 “My dad always pushes me to grow as a person and encourages me to find ways that my unique skill-set can contribute to making the world better. I’m also driven by the memory of my mom. Every day I ask myself what I can be doing to honor her and make her proud.”

Kevin Palomino

Kevin Palomino was born in Chihuahua, Mexico and migrated to the United States at the 3 years old. Because of the obstacles he encountered during his childhood, he is passionate about pursuing his goals. Kevin is a hardworking young man who dedicates his
time to various organizations and to his community. He strongly believes that there is always away out of life’s most difficult times; it just takes one step forward to make a change.

At the beginning of Kevin’s junior year, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was circling the media. He knew the danger many of his peers, including himself, would face if the program was repealed. Kevin was astonished by how little students and staff were informed over the situation DACA was facing. Kevin took this matter into his own hands by organizing an informational forum about DACA. His mission was to empower those students who would be directly impacted by the end of the DACA era and to educate them on how to react if it were to happen. Kevin also hung up posters around the halls of his school that read “DREAMERS Welcome”. Weeks later, teachers began to hang the same posters on their doors. Kevin says, “I wanted my undocumented peers to know that attending school is a place that they could feel safe”.

Additionally, Kevin is involved with many organizations throughout his community and his school. He is the student council secretary and is a member of his school’s National Honor Society, Key Club, Link Crew, and League of United Latin American Citizens. Kevin also takes part in the Youth Leadership Exchange: Leadership Skills class. This program helped Kevin enhance his leadership capabilities while learning about the treasures and communities of Oklahoma City. Kevin served as a group leader for his school’s annual philanthropy week called Students Helping Initiate New Experiences (SHINE Week) which raised funds for Aspiring Americans, a nonprofit that gives resources to undocumented students, empowering them to pursue higher education.

During Kevin’s childhood, the pressure of starting over in a foreign country took a toll on his parents, and they endured tremendous stress and conflict. Despite these conditions, his dad never stopped working to support his family. Kevin is grateful for the sacrifices his parents
made in bringing him to the United States. He sees life and success as a ladder: every step you take is another step to a brighter future and he will not stop until he reaches his goal. Says Kevin, “They say the sky’s the limit, but for me, the sky is just the beginning.”

Liliana Gonzalez

Liliana is a responsible, intelligent, and caring individual. She is a dedicated student who is willing to put forth honest work and effort. She is always improving and aiming for the best. Not only is she a bright young student, she is also a leader within her community and is always giving back to others.

Liliana is most proud of her community work, especially her community outreach project in partnership with her school’s STEM program. Through this project she was able to target current 5th grade students and help them in their transition into middle school. She made sure to touch upon topics of bullying, anxiety, and stress, all potential impacts that can alter a student making this drastic change. Through this project, she was able to expand HOSA, Health Occupation Students of America, where she is currently Vice President. She was able to make it a more prominent club in her school for those interested in the health care field.

Additionally, Liliana is involved in a variety of extracurricular activities. Outside of school, she volunteers at her local hospital, Palmetto General Hospital. There she aids in patient comfort, while assisting the nurses in their duties. She is also involved with the Leukemia Lymphoma Society, a nonprofit organization aimed at helping with cancer research, patient care, and advocacy, helping with their “Pennies for Patients” campaign and raising $800 with her school. At school, she is Historian for Spanish Honor Society, whose goal is to raise awareness about Spanish speaking countries and their rich culture. Liliana is also a tutor for current 7th grade and 8th grade students, where she helps with their understanding in math related topics.

Liliana’s inspiration comes from her hardworking parents, who were immigrants to this country. Starting from nothing was not easy, but they were able to overcome all the hard obstacles in their path. Liliana’s main goal is to give back to her parents by making something out of herself. She is well on her way to accomplishing this goal.

Maria Estrada

Maria Estrada is a proud Cuban Mexican, avid coffee drinker, history enthusiast, and activist for marginalized communities. After arriving to the United States at the age of five, Maria has tried to take advantage of every opportunity at her disposal. By doing so, she has obtained a Key Club Service Scholarship to help bring running water to the rural communities in Dominican Republic.


Additionally, last summer, Maria attended the Hispanic National Bar Foundation Future Latino Leaders Law Camp on a scholarship and discovered her passion for the legal field and she hopes to one day utilize her profession to advocate for immigrant justice. At her high school, Maria expresses her interest in business through her extensive involvement as a two-term President and District Vice President in the Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) chapter. She is also the editor-in-chief for her school’s online publication, CavsConnect, which has granted her various opportunities to attend state and national journalism conventions.


One of Maria’s principal philosophies is that change does not simply happen, it is sought. This is reflected in her political activism, as she has worked two campaigns, interned for Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, and is currently a fellow for a Congressional candidate. At a more local level, Maria partakes in her county’s Youth Commission in which she is spearheading the planning of the first-ever College Symposium for at-risk students in Miami-Dade. In addition, serving as the Public Relations Director for Youth Caucus of America, a nonprofit that aims fights issues affecting all American youth, has also given her the opportunity to have a deeper understanding of how strongly policy impacts society. Maria is excited to see the opportunities Hamilton will provide her and to form long-lasting friendships with her cohort. She credits her success to her two greatest confidants and best friends: her mom and sister, who have cheered her on throughout all her projects. Maria seeks to make them proud as she embarks on this new chapter of her life.

Paulina Lopez-Castillo

Paulina Lopez-Castillo is a passionate and a hard-working student who strives for success and has overcome difficult obstacles to achieve her goals. Paulina spends every waking moment grateful that she gets to live another day and wants to give back to her community and people who share similar struggles she has faced.

In the Spring of 2017, Paulina applied to a summer program called Camp Cardiac, where she received a medical student experience, learning about anatomy and the human heart. This experience made her realize that her purpose in life is to help sick children, like herself. In the Summer of 2018, she will complete an internship at Brookside Clinic in San Pablo, CA and will also job shadow her cardiologist and interact with other cardiothoracic surgeons at Benioff Children’s hospital in Oakland.

Additionally, Paulina is involved in many extracurricular activities. She has been on swim teams since eight grade and won first and second place in freestyle swimming events, She is the co-runner of the Music and Instrumentals Club in her school, a lifeguard under the City of Richmond, a cheerleader, and a peer tutor in Math, Science, Spanish, and History. As a Link Leader, she helps freshmen with their transition into high school, and as a member of the Student Leader Team, she works with peers to discuss solutions to pressing social issues.

Paulina was born with a rare congenital heart problem called Double Outlet Right Ventricle, which doctors believed would end her life within a week of birth. Her parents, who intended to return to Mexico after she was born, chose to stay in the US to give her a fighting chance. By the age of four, Paulina had survived three heart surgeries, which ultimately helped her live a healthier life. This experience inspired Paulina to pursue a career as a cardiologist or a cardiothoracic surgeon, with a compassionate understanding of what patients and their families are going through. She is motivated to inspire her family, school, and community, showing them that a low-income Latina with a serious health problem can conquer obstacles in order to succeed. She wants to pave the way for them and assure them that if Paulina Lopez-Castillo can do it, they can too.

Ruben Garza

Ruben is a very ambitious and outgoing person. He has gone through so many different challenges, yet he overcomes his obstacles with integrity. Ruben hopes to make a better future for himself and others. Until then, Ruben volunteers not only for his own community, but for the state of Texas as well.

Ruben is most proud of his work as a Teen Ambassador for Say What!, a Tobacco Prevention group that travels around Texas and speaks to youth regarding the harmful effects of tobacco. Ruben has always had an urge to improve, or gain leadership in, whatever he participates. Ruben was originally a member of Say What!, until he decided that he could do a lot more for not only himself but his peers as a Teen Ambassador.

Ruben is also Student Council President at his school. He really enjoys creating and hosting traditional student events and activities and is well-known for the strong school spirit he demonstrates.  Ruben is also a proud member of the Mu Alpha Theta Math Honor Society and enjoys serving as the “Voice of the Student Body” as student adviser to the school district’s Superintendent.

Ruben is driven to make a positive change that will not only benefit himself, but also the people who surround him. He aspires to do this by becoming a medical professor at a renowned university. Ruben is passionate about public speaking, as he loves talking to large groups of people and is remarkably social. “In order for me to be able to help, others I need to make sure that I am able to help myself. In the meantime, I will begin to work on myself while helping others to the best of my ability,” says Ruben.

Ruthchamar Jolibois

Ruthchamar is persistent and driven when it comes to academics as well as her personal life. She continuously strives for success despite the many obstacles she has endured. When thinking of Ruthchamar, others often think of a forthcoming and thoughtful person.

Ruthchamar is most proud of successfully entering AP Calculus AB in her junior year after attending a six-week rigorous Precalculus class the summer of her sophomore year. Prior to her Precalculus class, she had the opportunity to take Pre-Algebra in summer of her eighth grade year, which set her ahead of her peers. After completing Honors Algebra I, Honors Algebra II, and Honors Geometry, she was fortunate to gain entry to Precalculus. Six weeks of persistence led to what she wanted most, AP Calculus AB. Says Ruthchamar of this achievement, “Those summer classes really paid off and I am so thankful for my math teachers! Without them I would not be in that class today. I am so fortunate for that opportunity and I feel so overwhelmed whenever I think of how far I’ve come.”

Furthermore, Ruthchamar has a love for sports, specifically volleyball. During her sophomore year, Ruthchamar was selected as Libero of her high school’s volleyball varsity team. Apart from sports, she loves volunteering at a local soup kitchen and working behind the scenes in school productions.

Ruthchamar’s aspirations is to aid those with mental health disorders. She wishes to bring peace and comfort to those who cannot help themselves and to improve awareness of mental health issues in low-income areas. Once she has achieved her goals, Ruthchamar will be able to say she has made a difference in the world.

Sana Hussain

Sana Hussain is a dedicated and avid student advocate for student representation and voice at her school. She has extensive experience with empowering, leading, and cooperating with her peers to fix problems acutely affecting the student population in her community. More precisely, she has helped organize walk-outs and sit-ins to prevent budget cuts in Chicago Public Schools. Sana has advocated for equitable funding for all Chicago public schools by attending Board of Education meetings, as well as policy brainstorming breakout sessions with the Chicago Teachers Union and the Chicago Students Union.

Sana is most proud of her contribution to the BuildOn chapter at her school, a club that works to build schools in disadvantaged communities in developing nations. She has helped fundraise $30,000 to build a school in Burkina Faso, and to help give impoverished kids in that region a chance at an education. Her club was able to enroll ~120 kids at the school through their efforts. Through this club, she has worked to get the Lane Tech community as well as the surrounding Roscoe Village families and small businesses involved in her club’s fundraisers. This entails working booths at events, spending long hours in strategic event planning, and designing poster art for upcoming events. Through BuildOn, Sana has learned so much about mobilizing people, event planning, and about the massive discrepancy in education that exists in the world today.

Additionally, she is also a member of her school’s GEMS club, a club dedicated to influence more girls to go into STEM. Currently, she’s working on a mentorship program that will pair up professional women in STEM with members of the GEMS club. Sana is also the vice president of her school’s Pakistani International Day club, one of the top three ranked dance clubs at Lane out of 33 clubs, which all represent the diversity of the student body. She is a vocal member in her school’s Star Mentor’s Club and has actively participated in helping incoming freshman get accustomed to a new school by giving school tours She has also volunteered to tutor eighth graders, preparing them for their end-of-year math placement exam.

Sana is constantly inspired to achieve and work hard by her family. Raised in Lahore, Pakistan, she immigrated to Chicago in the summer of 2006. She was beyond frightened coming to a new land where fundamentally everything was different than what she had known, especially since she didn’t speak a word of English. As a bilingual teenager living in America, she will always be indebted to her parents for believing in her and helping her challenge herself as much as she can.

Tulsi Patel

Tulsi Patel is an ambitious young lady who is driven to make a name for herself and an impact in the world through her actions. As an immigrant child from India, the challenge of assimilation in Tulsi’s childhood helped her to develop a greater appreciation for the two unique cultures her life straddles and look at every obstacle as an opportunity. Believing in the philosophy that “to be human is to be grateful,” she attributes her success to the hard work of her teachers and the sacrifices of her parents. Tulsi actively works in her community to give others the same opportunities she was fortunate enough to receive.


Tulsi’s most meaningful achievement is teaching elementary and high school girls invaluable skills in technology, public-speaking, and leadership through her responsibilities as president of the Girls Who Code chapter at her school. She devotes her time to creating new lessons, organizing community outreach, and helping younger girls gain exposure to computer and technology-related fields so that someday our next generation of female engineers and CEOs may help close the gender gap in technology.

Additionally, Tulsi takes great pride in being fluent in over four different languages and in five different traditional Indian dance forms. In addition to being an integral member of Habitat for Humanity, her school’s multicultural club, and the local Parks & Rec committee, Tulsi enjoys exploring different fields of scientific study. For the past three years, she has conducted novel research on how to use natural compounds to degrade Styrofoam, convert paper into bioethanol, and more, earning her many high distinctions in state competitions.

Tulsi’s motivation in life is her parents, whose sacrifices have allowed her to pursue her dreams. Wanting to create a similar, lasting change in other people’s lives, Tulsi regularly volunteers throughout her community. While she strives for success, Tulsi also wishes for all children to have equal opportunities to build better lives, no matter their gender, race, or socioeconomic class. Her legacy, she says, should be reflected in the achievements of those she has helped, not her own.

Vincent Tran

Vincent is very hard-working, diligent, and motivated. Growing up in California, he always strives for success while limiting the fears and social constraints that surround his life. Vincent enjoys giving back to the community and uses his work ethic to bring him to new heights.

Vincent is very proud to announce that he will serve as the ASB President at Magnolia High School in Anaheim, California. At the beginning of high school, Vincent struggled to find the confidence and motivation to make a change, always staying in the shadows of other students and wasting open opportunities. However, during his junior year, he joined the school’s ASB, transforming his position as Technology Commissioner by incorporating new, state-of-the-art software. Through extensive support and hard work, Vincent was elected as the ASB President by the entire student body. Vincent feels that he is “living his freshman year dream, and fighting to give others what he never had coming into high school.”

Additionally, Vincent is extremely involved in extracurricular activities. He is the Head Drum Major of the high school band, serving in this position since his sophomore year. His passion for music and the arts shines through his efforts in leading a 160-person organization. He also serves on the Division Leadership Team of the CNH District, is the founder of his school’s Vietnamese Student Association, and exhausts his spare time on weekends by volunteering at his church. These activities demonstrate Vincent’s conscientiousness and his consistent effort to help the community around him.

Vincent is inspired by his parents who moved to the US nearly 30 years ago, struggling financially while fighting the constant language barrier that surrounded them. Although they faced substantial obstacles, his parents worked day in and day out to raise two kids and provide them the life they wish they had growing up. “My parents are the reason why I am where I am today. Without them, I am nothing,” Vincent claims proudly.

Vivian Lu

As a junior in high school, Vivian founded The Axon Project, an online platform that aims to create greater access to neuroscience opportunities for young women. In addition, she founded Equilibrium, a local nonprofit that provides rising fifth grade girls with a free summer course on advanced science and math concepts in order to dispel implicit gender biases regarding STEM education.

She has also worked in a clinical psychology laboratory at Drexel University and will soon work at a neuroscience laboratory at the New York University Medical School to study synaptic plasticity and cortical dynamics. Beyond her interests in science, Vivian is a published poet and writer. She is the Founder and Editor-In-Chief of Bitter Melon Magazine, an international literary publication that seeks to amplify marginalized voices. In addition, her work has won awards on the national and international level, garnering recognition from the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, the Hippocrates Initiative for Poetry and Medicine, American High School Poets, among others. Vivian also serves as the 2018 New Jersey Youth Poet Laureate.

Ever since she could form words out of sounds, Vivian has been fascinated by the intersection of science and literature. In light of her love for words and humanity, Vivian aspires to become a doctor in order to advocate for families who cannot receive treatments because of financial burdens. She strives to harness every opportunity presented to her while remaining grateful for the sacrifices her family has made. As a result of her family’s astounding light amidst adversity, Vivian dares to be powerful and actively ventures to use her strength in the service of her vision.

Vivian Vasquez

Vivian is a curious and passionate learner who seeks to understand everything around her so that she can take action. This curiosity stems from a multi-year struggle to find the cause her mother's debilitating illness. Through this journey, Vivian learned the power of knowledge and subsequently decided to instill this passion in others by venturing into the world of entrepreneurship.

Although she did not have any entrepreneurship experience, Vivian taught herself the fundamentals of creating companies that would change the world. After learning the power that a single idea could have, Vivian decided to start the Burbank Entrepreneurship Club where she partners with the MIT LaunchX program to educate her peers on how to bring their ideas to fruition. This year, her team focused on the topic of environmental sustainability. After seeing the devastation of the 2018 wildfires in California, her team decided to found Camelia, a company that creates necklaces from excess construction wood and donates most of the profits to reforestation and environmental efforts. She is most proud of co-founding this company because although her primary interest is neuroscience, she has learned that she can make an impact in any industry.

On campus, she has also become the key advocate for removing the stigma of mental health. During her freshman year, she felt that there was a gap in ensuring that high school students had access to mental health resources that they felt comfortable with. She worked tirelessly with school counselors and the Burbank Family Services agency to train students to become peer counselors and helped found the Peer Counseling Center. The concept has been adopted by neighboring schools and has helped hundreds of students feel comfortable with openly discussing their challenges. As president of the Psychology Club, she has brought some of the most well-known mental health advocates to campus to share their story which has inspired dozens of students to seek help in their battle against depression and suicide.

Vivian’s inspiration stems from her family’s drive to work hard and persevere despite significant health and financial challenges. By focusing on creating new ideas, she hopes to create a better life for future generations so that they do not have to endure the struggles that her family has. She envisions a world where everyone can have an equal opportunity to make their ideas a reality and hopes that through greater diversity of thought, our solutions will make broader societal impacts.

Zayn Imran

Zayn is a hard-working student athlete with a passion for engineering. He has a global upbringing, living in numerous countries across the world, and is determined to use his exposure to advance and benefit his community.

Zayn is most proud of his work as founder and president of his high school’s Technology Student Association Chapter. He has laid the foundations for an organization that provides a way for students who are passionate about STEM careers to express their interests and explore a variety of fields. After a long struggle to establish a chapter, with the help of a supportive advisor, the chapter grew to six times its original size and to be the third largest organization in the school. It is now filled with motivated new members and secured a positive future in the state and the nation. Zayn is now working with other schools to establish their own chapters, as well as helping smaller chapters grow, with his current goal being to create a chapter at his former middle school.

Additionally, Zayn is involved in a wide variety of extracurricular activities. He volunteers as an instructor teaching basic circuitry to kids ages 5 to 12 in order to guide them in realizing their future career aspirations at an early age. He also serves his local community by preparing and serving breakfast to homeless community members at the Charlotte Men’s Shelter every month with his local mosque. Zayn participates in his school community by volunteering to tutor Algebra I and II, as well as working as a member of both Beta club and the National Honor Society on various service projects, such as a homeless shelter drive. He is also on his varsity tennis team and is working on establishing a computer science club at his school.

Zayn hopes to pursue a career in engineering, as he is interested in solving the issue of the rapidly declining supply of fossil fuels, one of the most prominent problems to be faced by his generation. Inspired by Elon Musk, Zayn wants to engineer the next generation of efficient, scalable, and low-cost renewable devices.