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Yasmine Mabene

Since she was young, Yasmine Mabene always dreamed of growing up to be someone who would one day change the world. As a first generation American whose parents immigrated from Cameroon, Yasmine grew up experiencing a unique blend of American and African culture. The importance of community was strongly emphasized throughout her childhood and reflects in the actions she took to improve the lives of those around her. Whether it is the summers she spends running activities at a camp for homeless youth, or the classroom discussions she leads with younger students on healthy lifestyle choices, Yasmine continuously strives to make a positive impact. She is a strong leader within her campus as an officer in Peer Counseling, President of the California Scholarship Federation, and both Treasurer and Secretary of National Honor Society. Beyond dedicating hours of her time to serving others, Yasmine discovered her passion for fighting for social justice. Heavily influenced by her parents who were born right after the liberation and subsequent political turmoil in Cameroon, activism is in her blood. In addition to leading rallies, town halls, and demonstrations, Yasmine has visited both her State Capitol and the nation’s Capital to speak with politicians on issues that are important to her. She is the State Director of March for Our Lives California, a youth organization in the gun violence prevention movement and the Social Media Director of Earth Uprising, an international youth led organization that works to fight climate change through education. Through this work, Yasmine has found that she has been able to build a community with people from all around the world, something she finds essential in initiating transformative change. 

Yasmine has always found herself holding a wide variety of interests. Her never ending love for music allowed her to perform in Carnegie Hall but also in more intimate settings such as retirement homes and the oncology department of the hospital she shadowed in. Yasmine’s interest in the STEM field allowed her to participate in research involving pain detection and address racial disparities in healthcare while her involvement at Johns Hopkins Public Health Institute gave her the opportunity to study policy and the disproportionate effect that gun violence has on communities of color.

Yasmine hopes to further explore these interests next fall at Stanford University, to continue taking part in research that can be implemented to benefit communities, and perhaps, achieve her childhood dream along the way.

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Aissata Bah

Aissata Bah

Hometown: Lithonia, GA

high school: Phillips Academy

college: Harvard College

MAJOR: Social Studies

Aissata Bah’s story begins in her mother’s hair salon. Born and raised in the outskirts of Atlanta, Aissata watched in awe at her parents’ kindness and desire to create safe spaces despite the challenges that they faced as Guinean immigrants. It was within those salon walls that Aissata recognized the importance of storytelling in empowering communities and inspiring change.

As a low-income student who attended various under-resourced public institutions before enrolling in Phillips Academy, one of the nation’s top private and boarding schools, Aissata recognizes how improbable her educational journey has been. With the help of Atlanta-based enrichment program Reach for Excellence and through her 7th-grade admittance into the Jack Kent Cooke Young Scholar Program, Aissata “beat the odds.” Both programs have been instrumental in widening Aissata’s knowledge of the opportunities that await her and granting her access to the education that she believes every student deserves.

When first adjusting to Phillips Academy, Aissata gravitated to extracurriculars that made her feel connected to her home community that was now a thousand miles away. Aissata’s experience as a racial and socioeconomic minority led her to create discursive spaces and mediums for students of marginalized identities to tell their stories. Through her roles as the head coordinator of a mentorship program for Black and Latinx students, a balance-and-inclusion curriculum developer and teacher, and the Chief Financial Officer of the student newspaper, Aissata is committed to amplifying marginalized students’ voices and making her campus more equitable. Aissata also aims to support students who do not have the access to the resources that they need to reach their maximum potential, like she once did, and partnered with the Youth Development Organization her sophomore year to create a program that introduces students in her nearby school community to real-life applications of math.

In the summer after creating her community program, Aissata had the opportunity to attend the Telluride Association’s Sophomore Seminar on “The Culture Politics of Race in Media and Literature” at the University of Michigan, where she developed a passion for exploring the intersections of research and activism. Aissata has written a research paper examining Black women’s agency and sexuality in Shonda Rhimes’ television shows and created digital media content under the hashtag “#StopSolitary” to raise awareness of the cruelty of solitary confinement in U.S. prisons while working as an intern at the Dodd Center for Human Rights. Between her junior and senior year, Aissata also embarked on an independent research project where she wrote a thirty-page research paper analyzing the media’s erasure of Black women from activist movements.

Aissata believes that our collective progress towards social equality relies on our abilities to question the narratives brought in front of us. In the future, she hopes to harness the powers of traditional research, digital media, and film to draw attention to the realities of Black youth in low-income communities, celebrate their resilience, and ultimately incite the political change needed to dismantle the oppressive structures embedded within these communities.

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Antavion Moore

Antavion Moore

Hometown: Ringgold, LA

high school: Ringgold HS

college: Louisiana State University

MAJOR: Engineering

In a rural town riddled with issues of drugs, violence, racism, and poverty, Antavion has humbly answered the commonly asked question, “What good can come out of Ringgold, Louisiana?” It’s a question that was asked at his grandmother’s funeral which became motivation for his family to strive and prove that good things do come from Ringgold. This family mantra coupled with Antavion’s own personal philosophy of service is what has fueled him to achieve and accomplish all that he has academically, socially, and spiritually.

Antavion is well known throughout his community, school district, and state as a promising young individual who is committed to service and community betterment. His involvement in 4-H has had a significant impact on both his personal success and the improvement of the rural community he has been a part of his entire life. The local outreach and educational programs he has initiated, and assisted in developing, have reached thousands. His dedication to his volunteer roles at the United Pentecostal Church of Ringgold, where he serves in various ministries, including: media, worship team, men’s ministry, missions, youth group, etc. is also a testament to his spiritual faith and enthusiasm for civic empowerment.

Antavion has been a member of the Louisiana 4-H Executive Board for four years, and currently serves the over 186,000 members of the Louisiana 4-H program as State President, empowering young people and sharing the positive impact of youth development programs across the nation. He was chosen as a representative of Louisiana 4-H for the 2019 National 4-H Conference in Washington, DC, where he presented to the United States Department of Agriculture on cultivating the next generation of agricultural leaders. He was also selected as one of seven student members from across the country to serve on the 2019 National 4-H Congress Design Team.

As early as elementary school, Antavion gained a reputation for being an academically gifted student. He earned the honor of Bienville Parish “Student of the Year” in 5th grade, 8th grade, and is currently a finalist in the Louisiana State Student of the Year competition as a senior in high school. Through the dual-enrollment program, he has been able to attain an Associate’s Degree in General Studies, a Certificate of General Studies, a Certificate of Music, and will be completing his second Associates Degree in Performing Arts with a concentration in Music Production/Technology before he graduates high school as Valedictorian. He is currently a member of the National Beta Club and Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society.

Antavion hopes the achievements, awards, accolades and honors he has received throughout his life serve as an inspiration to students at Ringgold High School and beyond. He plans to study biomedical engineering, engage in research, participate in service-learning activities, and work with his colleagues to uphold sound values of public service by solving problems to improve the health of society.

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Christalyn Ausler

Christalyn Ausler

Hometown: Winnebago, IL

high school: Winnebago HS

college: Cornell University

MAJOR: Biochemistry

Christalyn Ausler was born in 2002 in Central Arkansas. She was born the last of five children, which gave her lots of chances and time to learn from her older sibling’s mistakes. As she ventured past her troublesome domestic life into the protection of the education system, at around five-years-old, she developed an affinity for reading and exploring the limits of the world’s knowledge in science and math fields. She often frequented her local libraries, checking out 6 to 15 books every two weeks. Through her turbulent childhood, extensive reading, and explorations in the world by way of television programs (such as National Discovery, Animal Planet, and PBS) and scientific libraries (such as NBIC, Nature, and ScienceDirect) she developed her life’s aspiration of creating a better environment and life for others, whether that was through philanthropy or biological discoveries.

Her aspiration of creating a higher quality of life for all humans translated itself into her never-ending research into the chemical pathways housed in the human body and began to oscillate around cancer and genetic mutations. She did not spend her entire childhood with her head in books though; before her freshman year in high school, she played basketball, was on her track team, played three instruments, was recognized in Duke TIP, participated in two UALR Engineering Olympics, and was an active volunteer in her community, and member of her BETA Club. Her aforementioned aspirations proved to be a linchpin when, during her transition to high school, her father relocated their family to Illinois, uprooting her efforts and plans. Her dreams exclusively carried her through the enduring experiences of her high school career.

With no security provided in her home, and no longer in school, she found jobs to provide herself with food, clothes, and school supplies. Even with her schedule saturated with work, homework, and her attempts to overcome the mental scars from her childhood, she still found time to mentor, tutor, and volunteer in her community, research her budding ideas on cancer, and graduate high school with an Associate Degree of Science with 75 college credits. She even worked to secure herself a seat in a chemistry course at Harvard University’s Secondary Schooling Program in the summer of 2019. She is now a badged recipient of the Illinois State Scholar honor, a proud member of her chapter’s National Honor Society, and a seasoned Student Government member at Rock Valley College.

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Craig McFarland

Craig McFarland

Hometown: Jacksonville, FL

high school: Stanton College Preparatory School

college: Harvard College

MAJOR: Molecular & Cellular Biology and Linguistics

Craig McFarland is a high school senior of Stanton College Preparatory School and was born and raised in Jacksonville, Florida. Although he has already attained an endless list of perfect achievements, scholarships, and perfect scores, Craig describes his past as flawed yet something he wouldn’t change for the world. He was raised by his mother and immigrants in a single-parent household while facing financial hardships as a result of his family being low-income. In his earlier years, his mother worked multiple jobs while trying to earn her Associate’s Degree in order to provide for her three kids. In his 18 years, Craig has already moved thirteen times before his family finally had the means to buy their own house. Through his disadvantaged experiences in his childhood, Craig strives for success in order to help those who, too, have been born profoundly disadvantaged.

Despite such obstacles, Craig soon began to become the embodiment of academic and personal success. Craig is the valedictorian of his high school and will be graduating with the highest weighted GPA and number of credits attained by a senior at Stanton. In addition, Craig has received numerous perfect scores on his standardized tests and constantly strives to perfect any and every academic subject that he encounters. Craig has been featured by the New York Times twice, has been included in more than one hundred publications, and has given talks to kids and parents around the world. Notably, Craig received international recognition after having been accepted into all the Ivy League universities, Stanford, and all other schools to which he applied.

To many, Craig has become a leader and role model – a student who excels academically, athletically, and socially. Craig is an active member of his schools running club, Marathon High, and is a varsity sprinter on his school’s Track & Field team. Throughout high school, Craig has been the leader of multiple clubs, including Co-President of Debate Club, President of his school’s environmental activism club, Team Captain of multiple academic teams like Ethics Bowl, and an officer of many more. In addition, from winning the Florida state High School Ethics Bowl championship, numerous Gold Seals of Biliteracy, and 1st Place in public speaking competitions to receiving a Scholastic Gold Key for his Senior Writing Portfolio and becoming a National Merit Finalist & Scholar, Craig has never been short of achieving success.

Although Craig takes pride in his academic achievements, he cares more about his passions and who he is and has become as a person. Coming from Stanton College Preparatory School – a highly competitive high school where he felt the administration cared little about the students and often swept issues such as mental health, racism, and administrative foul play under the rug – Craig has come to care more about issues such as justice and education. His personability and amiable character are also seen within his own high school, most notably with how he won the title of Homecoming Prince. Craig, as part of the LGBTQ community himself, is a fervent advocate for LGBTQ and women’s rights. Among his passion for social activism, he can be found listening to all of Lorde’s and Forrest.’s discography, watching Adventure Time and Game of Thrones, or eating sushi with his close friends. His most remarkable passion, however, is his love of languages: through his linguistic love, Craig, in addition to his proficiency in English, Tagalog and Ilocano, would become fluent in both French in Spanish and begin to learn Arabic, Italian, and other languages. In fact, in his senior year of high school, Craig was able to skip six years of Spanish and immediately take IB Spanish 6 due to his acquired proficiency in the language in just one summer. In college, Craig hopes to expand his knowledge of languages while furthering his passions in calculus, philosophy & ethics, biochemistry, and law.

Craig will be attending Harvard University in the Fall. After undergraduate school, Craig strives to attend either law school or medical school. Although unsure of his future profession, he hopes of going into a profession where he can effect true change. When asked what was his biggest aspiration in life, he immediately remarked “to be a good father” – a true testament to the unique heart of Craig McFarland

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Imani Gunnison

Imani Gunnison

Hometown: Conyers, GA

high school: Heritage HS

college: Amherst College

MAJOR: Education Studies

Imani Gunnison was born in Georgia and still resides there as the second oldest of 8 siblings and with her two parents. At an early age, her parents instilled in her the importance of education and Imani has adopted that as her own personal value. Knowing that she had to work hard to create a better life for her and her family, Imani devoted herself to studying and constant personal enrichment.

From an early age, Imani has had a hunger for knowledge. She read any book she could and asked any question that came to mind. Imani has also had a passion for helping others. She saw the way her parents gave selflessly to others whether that be by letting a homeless woman live with the family or run fall festivals for the local elementary school to raise money. From that point on, Imani knew that regardless of what she would do in her life, it would have to be helping others. She started by volunteering in her Kindergarten class to teach the other students sight words and from then on, she knew that education was her calling.

Imani has pursued her passion by volunteering in elementary school classes and working as a teaching assistant at a tutoring center. She was also chosen to be a member of the Georgia Department of Education Student Advisory Council. Through these activities, she gained a greater understanding of the differences and disparity in the education system which increased her drive to promote change. Realizing that one must understand the students to be an effective educator, Imani talked to as many students as possible. She learned about their life, their stories, and why they thought they could or could not excel. She learned that many children don’t have confidence in themselves and coupled with a lack of resources, they often don’t succeed.

One reason for the low self esteem was a lack of representation. Seeing the lack of ethnic minorities in school curriculum, Imani found her own resources. Fluency exercises and word problems now reflected stories and heroes the students never would have thought existed. She showed her students prominent people in history who looked like them to show them that there was no reason they couldn’t do the same thing. She attended a Comfortable in Your Own Skin (C.I.Y.O.S) conference to better educate herself on how to help herself and others. She hopes to pursue more of these endeavors in the future.

In her undergraduate education, Imani plans to study Psychology and Spanish and go on to graduate school to study Education and Psychology. She will get a teacher’s certification to work in public schools but go on to run her own school with a more diverse approach to history and language acquisition. Imani hopes to be a change agent to help her community and to show every person she encounters that regardless of any circumstance you can live out your dreams and fulfill your destiny.

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Janelle Baker

Janelle Baker

Hometown: Cedar Hill, TX

high school: Townview School of Science & Engineering

college: Stanford University

MAJOR: Biomedical Engineering

Janelle Baker was born and raised in Dallas, Texas. Growing up, she was surrounded by a Christian family whose commitment to serving others fueled her passion to use all her God-given talents and abilities to contribute to her community.

During her middle school years, Janelle discovered that she deeply enjoyed learning about math and science, which is why she chose to attend the School of Science and Engineering at Townview, the top STEM high school in the nation, where she will graduate as the salutatorian of her class. Upon entering this high school, Janelle was placed into the most accelerated math and science tracks, but she saw her passion for STEM come to fruition when she joined the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) and the Texas Alliance for Minorities in Engineering (TAME) joint chapter at her school. As the Vice President of NSBE, she took on the role of organizing engineering design challenges to specifically cater to skills vital to success in STEM careers and tutored the students in math and science in preparation for divisional STEM competitions. Her position not only allowed her to influence future generations of scientists and engineers through mentorship but allowed her to advise other clubs’ leadership in the region to make their respective chapters more efficient in the mission of the overall organizations: to ignite and increase minority participation in STEM fields.

In addition to her rigorous academic course load, Janelle is a competitive dancer who has trained in ballet, tap, jazz, and lyrical dance technique for most of her life. Janelle’s passion for movement and fascination with biomechanics engendered the interdisciplinary perspective that has motivated her to pursue a degree in biomedical engineering. Dancing has allowed her to experience feeling weightless and untethered as she glides across a stage, using every inch of her being to create beautiful silhouettes, and she hopes a bioengineering education will provide her with the skills to design products that can restore mobility and enable people to experience their unique expressions of freedom. After undergrad, Janelle hopes to attend medical school and pursue a specialty in sports medicine or orthopedics, continuing to explore the intersection between medicine and the mechanics of the human body.

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John Hatcher

John Hatcher

Hometown: Chicago Heights, IL

high school: Marian Catholic HS

college: Harvard College

MAJOR: Political Science / Economics

When John Hatcher was first born, he struggled to breathe and fought to hold on to life. As he suffered from seizures and a number of other health problems, the doctors predicted that with his current situation, he would suffer from learning disabilities and struggle within the classroom. While everyone seemed to have given up hope on John’s future, his mother, with a determination that seemed otherworldly, sacrificed virtually everything to take care of him on her own and guide him into a future of prosperity. It was this determination and love that allowed John to rise, despite the doctors’ predictions, beyond his circumstances and to develop a passion for learning itself, for it was the very entity that his birth predicted he would never be able to truly access.

As he grew up and learned to overcome his own challenges, John soon became aware of how his surrounding environment, his own community, faced its own set of unique and insurmountable challenges. In growing up in a black neighborhood rife with people that have been forced to grow dependent on living from check to check in government subsidized housing, he heard stories of family and community members who could have had amazing futures but sadly never met their potential. Their futures were destroyed by their inability to escape their environment of limited socioeconomic mobility and mass incarceration through accidental pregnancies, drug addictions, and petty crimes. In this critical time of this awareness, John entered a private Catholic high school with the financial support of an organization called LINK Unlimited Scholars. This program for black students within the Chicagoland area sought to also provide its students with supplementary information about the history of the black diaspora outside of the white narrative; John learned of the strength within the black community, from Leo Africanus’s depictions of Western African communities as rich and complex to the movement of black people in America, like his own grandmother, who risked everything to move to the North to seek opportunity as part of the Great Migration. Like the doctors that lacked knowledge of John’s inner strength and could not predict the effect of his mother’s tenacity, America, a country built on the backs of black slaves, failed to recognize its own racist history, from Jim Crow to the War on Drugs, and created and allowed the problems in his own community to persist. It was at this time in John’s life that he was able to connect his passion for learning with his desire to be an advocate and a voice for all who have suffered like he, and the others members of his community, had suffered.

Through his high school years, John has had the opportunity to develop his voice to address the systems of injustice that plague marginalized communities across America. On the Speech Team, he has discussed topics from the “Adultification of Black Boys” to “American Exceptionalism.” His talents and passions were additionally culminated when he spoke at the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) GO TO 2050 event, during which he was able to discuss with mayors and community planners about the experience of growing up as a black child in the Chicagoland area, especially within the context of police murders like that of Laquan McDonald.

From the day he was born, John has been a fighter. Through role models like his mother and grandmother, and by planning to double major in Political Science and Economics, he seeks to continue to use his love for learning, public speaking, and social justice to contribute to the fight against the systems of oppression that have affected the people who have grown up in similar circumstances as he. John Hatcher is proud of his past and his lineage, and knows that it is his destiny to enact this positive change in a world that so desperately needs it.

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Kate Rhoda Nkrumah

Kate Rhoda Nkrumah

Hometown: Cincinnati , OH

high school: Garfield HS

college: Howard University

MAJOR: Sociology

Born to Ghanaian parents, Kate Rhoda Nkrumah was raised in the small suburb of Forest Park, Ohio. From an early age, Rhoda viewed her mother, Catherine, as her role model. Catherine sacrificed everything to come to the United States to give her children a better quality of life. Despite having to raise five children on her own, Catherine was assiduous and enduring. Seeing her mother and her community struggle but simultaneously continue to push on instilled the values of hard work, perseverance, and a thirst for knowledge in Rhoda.

In 2016, Kate Rhoda moved from Cincinnati to Seattle to live with her older sibling. This was a complete disruption to the life she had built in Ohio. Having to leave her friends, family, community, and everything she had ever known behind and relocate to a city 2,300 miles away was traumatic. From feelings of isolation and depression to homelessness and financial insecurity, her move to Seattle left her feeling defeated. Yet, Rhoda could not allow herself to succumb to this. She had to survive and overcome just as her mother had. Over time, Rhoda has managed to overcome the stresses in her life by building community, finding her passions, and being of service to her community.

During her time in Seattle, Kate Rhoda has become deeply involved in her community. Two activities she is most proud of is the Melanin Monthly and the creation of Black and Brown Minds Matter. Rhoda noticed the lack of representation and diversity in her school’s newspaper and consequently worked alongside one of her peers to create the Melanin Monthly, a newspaper written by and for students of color with the goal of highlighting their experiences and celebrating cultural diversity. In addition, Rhoda, along with four peers, founded Black and Brown Minds Matter. This aims to achieve equitable funding in the Seattle Public Schools district for students of color. She and her peers were able to successfully organize a district-wide walkout and rally to draw attention to the blatant injustices in the Seattle school system.

Kate Rhoda has managed to overcome adversity and serve her community while excelling academically. She has maintained a 3.86 GPA and has taken two years of a full college course-load. This has allowed her to graduate high school with an Associate of Arts degree from Seattle Central College. With her mother as a role model, Rhoda has made sure to take advantage of every opportunity, exceed academic expectations, and to also give back to her community.

In the future, Kate Rhoda’s ultimate goal is to become a Criminal Justice Reform Lawyer as well as a Journalist and Entrepreneur. These professions will allow her to combine her love for law, social advocacy, literature, and self-empowerment. As shown by her extensive involvement and dedication to her community, Rhoda plans to dedicate her life to fighting for the people who have been systematically denied their rights to justice, peace, and equal opportunity.

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Miguel Anderson

Miguel Anderson

Hometown: Richmond, CA

high school: Summit Public Schools K2

college: University of Texas at Austin

MAJOR: Journalism

Miguel Anderson is a high school senior attending Summit K2 in El Cerrito, California. Although he was born in Berkeley, California, he was raised in Richmond, California. Due to this, he is unapologetically Richmond. He was raised in a single-parent household with his mother, Cynthia Anderson, and twin sister Cambria Anderson. In his spare time, he enjoys listening to music, DJing, and thrifting. You can find him at a record store, concert, or out exploring the city. With an unparalleled passion for life, he loves creating memories with those close to him.

Growing up in Richmond has exposed Miguel to a lot. From a young age, Miguel has constantly witnessed how institutional barriers such as poverty and racism disrupt society and displaces communities. Being queer, multiethnic, and from poverty, Miguel has personally been displaced and this leads Miguel to believe that everyone has a place in this world, no matter where they come from.

Miguel pursues this belief at school, where he is a prominent advocate for equity and inclusion. He is the Senior Class President for Summit K2’s senior class as a part of the Associated Student Body. At this level, he advocates for student needs such as in AP Calculus, where he has transformed free periods into math review sessions to offer extra support in math subjects to students who need it. He also brings his interest in music to the school community. Miguel is the founder of Musicality 101, a student organization that aims to spread awareness and provide education through music. He teaches DJ lessons and hosts musical discussions in class. However, Musicality 101’s greatest impact lies outside of the classroom, where the organization has hosted successful campaigns that educate audiences about current social injustices through benefit concerts. Musicality has raised $700 for the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, and provided musical entertainment to non-profit organizations for their social justice campaigns.

Miguel’s advocacy continues into his journalism. He believes journalism is a way to communicate important news and expose society’s injustices. Take a look into his work and you’ll see: Miguel has created a radio feature about creative expression in minority communities and it’s repercussions for minority youth and a radio commentary about his personal experience with gentrification. Now, Miguel uses journalism to implement a new narrative for marginalized and minority communities across the globe. He owns the blog, Stageconfessions.com, where he writes to provide a platform for underrepresented minorities in the music industry. He has written articles on “Black Artists Who’ve Revolutionized Music,” interviewed the Mexican-American singer Katzu Oso, and spotlighted transgender artist SOPHIE’s artistry. With these articles, Miguel hopes to communicate to communities worldwide that minorities are able to reach triumphant heights. Minorities are more than just stereotypes, they are innovators and achievers. Miguel hopes to show that to the world by pursuing a dual-degree in journalism and sociology.

Now, wherever Miguel goes, he is confident to make an impact.

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