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Class of 2003

Stefon Burns

Hometown: White Plains, MD

high school: Henry E. Lackey

college: University of Pennsylvania – Wharton School

MAJOR: Economics

GRAD. PROGRAM: Harvard Business School (2012, MBA)

Because of a semi-nomadic lifestyle induced by his father’s service in the US Marine Corps, Stefon Q. Burns’ family has become his sanctuary. He loves to laugh at the jokes of his facetious little brothers, smile at his beautiful sisters, and converse with his intelligent parents. Stefon was instilled with principles that have made him a respectful, honest, and diligent young man.

A well-rounded individual, Stefon has achieved excellence in many arenas. He ranked in the top 3% of his graduation class and was the only African American male member of his class to graduate summa cum laude. Several institutions have recognized his academic aptitude. He was named Social Studies Student of the Year in the tenth grade, and became a member of the National Honor Society in the eleventh grade. The Maryland Higher Education Commission awarded him the Distinguished Scholars-Honorable Mention. Maryland also awarded him the “Mind In Motion” award for 3 consecutive years for the coupling of his academic achievement and athletic participation. He was a three-year member of the championship indoor and outdoor track team as a shot putter, high jumper, and hurdler as well as a member of the football team. His assiduous athletic practice did not diminish his artistic capability.

Stefon was a saxophonist for Lackey’s Symphonic and Concert bands and director of the Gospel Choir. A closet-thespian, Stefon acted in the musical productions, which allowed him to become a member of the elite International Thespian Society. Stefon further exemplified his creativity and leadership when he co-founded and co-captained the Alpha Zure Squad to stellar finishes against tenured step teams during the first year of the team’s inception. The student government acknowledged Stefon’s leadership and dependability and appointed him Parliamentarian. His qualities were noted when he received the Kodak Young Leaders Award in 2001.

Stefon set the stones for his path to success as an international financial management executive. His business savvy afforded him the opportunity to study at the Graduate Business School of the University of Chicago during the LEAD Summer Business Institute. This also led to his acceptance into the INROADS Talent Pool and his designation as a McDonald’s Black History Maker of Tomorrow in Entrepreneurship.

While attempting to attain his goals, Stefon volunteered in fund-raising for the American Cancer Society as well as the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. As a means to help the underprivileged, Stefon was both a mentor and mediator.

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Class of 2003

Wendy Francois

Hometown: Naranja, FL

high school: Homestead Senior

college: Columbia University

MAJOR: Political Science

GRAD. PROGRAM: Columbia Law School (2012, JD)

Wendy Francois is first generation, first American, first hope. Her parents escaped the perils of Haiti on a rickety raft amid 100 other refugees seeking mythical streets paved with gold. She rips through deterrent currents and excels academically in spite of turbulence, because her education is the key to her freedom.

She is able to emphasize the importance of education to the Haitians in her community through the show that she hosts on the local Haitian community radio station and by writing articles in a prominent Haitian newspaper. She uses this medium of communication to shed light on the issues that directly relate to parent-teen relationships. This in turn enlightens parents. Wendy is also a reading mentor for third graders through Teen Trendsetters, a mentoring program which focuses on reading in order to help the students pass the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test. She is driven by the obligation to hone her strengths through higher learning and contribute to the advancement of society as a whole.

In addition to her community service projects, Wendy is the president of French Honor Society, historian of the Haitian Culture Club, senior representative of Women of Tomorrow and captain of varsity soccer and volleyball. She is an active member in National Honor Society, Afro-Heritage Society, and Kiwanis Key Club.

Wendy was the salutatorian at Homestead Senior High School. She was a National Achievement Scholarship winner, a Kodak Young Leaders Award winner, a Presidential Freedom Scholarship winner, a Silver Knights nominee, recipient of the University of Miami Book Award and winner of the Prudential Spirit of Community Award. She was a member of the College Board’s Inspiration Award Delegation to the College Board Forum 2002 at which she gave a speech and met the President of the College Board Governor Gaston Caperton and First Lady Laura Bush. She is headstrong and believes in the relentless pursuit of her goals. Higher learning presupposes change; change of ideology, change of concerns, and change of location. She is not afraid of change–she welcomes it.

Her education is her dreams; indeed it is the essence of her life. She will fulfill her dreams of becoming a Medical Doctor. Ever mindful of her parents’ perilous voyage, she will save and improve lives. Many people say, “The sky’s the limit.” To her there are no limits; there is the whole world to see and there is much beyond the sky.

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Class of 2003

Yann Le Gall

Hometown: Pittsburgh, PA

high school: Sewickly Academy

college: Princeton University

MAJOR: Chemical Engineering

GRAD. PROGRAM: University of Pittsburgh (2012, MS)

Yann Le Gall established himself as a high honors student during his freshman year at Sewickley Academy in Sewickley PA, and has continued to be a leader among his peers both in and outside of the classroom.

A Renaissance man of sorts, Yann excels across the board. He is driven to go beyond merely “knowing that” to also “knowing how” and “knowing why.” Growing up in a bilingual, bicultural, and biracial family, Yann has learned to probe deeply and to look beyond surface differences to find underlying unity. He brings this penchant for abstract conceptual thought to his studies. His AP Biology teacher notes that Yann “is clearly, the intellectual leader” in the class, and his AP Chemistry teacher describes him as “particularly quick to recognize unusual applications of chemical properties and to perceive subtle connections between seemingly unrelated phenomena,” and his AP History teacher notes that Yann’s insights have benefited him and students by “stimulating new thinking about old issues in US History.”

Yann’s creative mind and pursuit of excellence have brought him recognition. In addition to being recognized in Who’s Who Among American High School Students, Yann is an AP Scholar with Honor, a National Achievement Finalist, a Commended National Merit Scholar, as well as a recipient of the Bausch and Lomb Honorary Science Medal. Yann’s love of scientific inquiry led him to the Bahamas in the summer of 2001 as a student member of an Earth Watch Institute research expedition conducting molecular studies of marine biodiversity, and propelled him to a 1st place finish in the 2003 regional Brain Bee, which earned him the chance to compete in the International Brain Bee sponsored by the Society for Neuroscience. Yann’s belief that “excellence is a journey, not just a destination,” provides him natural immunity to “senioritis:” he is conducting a research study with a molecular biologist at a local university this year for his senior project.

Rivaling his enthusiasm for the sciences is his passion for the visual arts. Yann takes classes at the Carnegie Museum of Art and at Carnegie Mellon University and has won the top prize in the annual high school competitions for three years running. In 2002, he attended the summer residential program of the PA Governor’s School for Excellence in the Arts, where his art was selected for exhibition at the PA State capitol in Harrisburg. Yann is a contributing artist to his school’s arts magazine and school newspaper. He shares his passion for the visual arts with elementary school children through his volunteer work with the art museum.

An avid runner and swimmer, Yann promotes attention to health and wellness among his peers. Modeling the ideal, mens sana in corpore sano, Yann has recruited peers to the cross-country team which he captained in his junior year and to more healthy lifestyles.

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Class of 2003

Jennifer Green

Hometown: Louisville, KY

high school: Central

college: Harvard University

MAJOR: Government

GRAD. PROGRAM: Columbia Law School (2012, JD)

Jennifer N. Green is a native of Louisville, Kentucky and the tenth child in a loving family of thirteen children. From wonderful parents, she learned the value of hard work, commitment to task, and service to others. A key motto for the Green family is, “It takes a village to raise a child.”

A student at Central High School, Jennifer is the 2003 class valedictorian, a member of the Naval Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps, the number one nationally-ranked Black History Bowl team, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and many other school and community-based organizations. During her sophomore and junior years, Jennifer served as class president and was awarded the prestigious Harvard Book Award. She placed first in the state of Kentucky in French II Listening Proficiency and was inducted into the National French Alliance.

Since kindergarten, Jennifer has had perfect attendance in school for 13 consecutive years. Receiving numerous community awards and honors, she was selected as a National Achievement semi-finalist, a National Ventures Scholar, the Chestnut Street YMCA Black Achiever’s program “Youth Achiever of the Year” and she received the WHAS-TV “Great Kids Fulfilling the Dream” Award. During the summer preceding her senior year, Jennifer participated in the Kentucky Governor’s Scholars Program, which encouraged her interest in international affairs.

Jennifer has volunteered with many community organizations with her NJROTC unit where she serves as Operations Officer. In this very demanding position, one of Jennifer’s many responsibilities includes the coordination of volunteer service opportunities for cadets in order to make Central’s NJROTC unit a viable part her Louisville community.

She looks forward to a bright future of majoring in Pre-Med/ International Relations, with a French minor. Jennifer’s ultimate career goal is to pursue a career in the military and international diplomacy, and to one day become the United States Surgeon General. It is in this office that she hopes to address the disparities in health care due to socioeconomic and cultural differences and to confront the widespread HIV/AIDS epidemic that is becoming increasingly prevalent among African American women.

In addition to balancing daily classes and family and community responsibilities, Jennifer has a part-time job. Planned Parenthood of Greater Louisville has employed her for the past two years to mentor middle school children and teach them of the dangers of irresponsible and hazardous behaviors and decisions. Jennifer is also a Peer Educator at Planned Parenthood. This position allows her to go out into the community to facilitate dialogue with her peers about sexuality and social issues ranging from a wide variety of topics.

If one would ask Jennifer where she gets the time and strength to do all she has accomplished in her life, Jennifer would smile modestly and humbly say, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Jennifer’s ultimate goal is to live a Christian life and to dedicate herself to the service of all mankind.

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Class of 2003

Jessica Larche

Hometown: Gretna, LA

high school: West Jefferson

college: Florida A&M University

MAJOR: Broadcast Journalism

Born on Christmas Eve in 1984, Jessica Larche’s life had humble beginnings. Product of a single-parent home, her future seemed bleak as her parents’ divorce left her mother struggling. Considering herself as the “anti-stereotype,” Jessica’s tenacity, perseverance, and faith have allowed her to disprove stereotypical claims against her race, sex, and family. Now, the valedictorian of her graduating class, she attributes her success to determination and the strength she garnered from her mother’s success.

Jessica’s vision for the future was apparent early in her life. While she attended an elementary school located near a housing project, Jessica was able to see close-up the inner problems of the community. At the age of eight, she began making speeches at local school board meetings on pressing issues in the community. Her public speaking skills were recognized in 1996 when she was chosen to be commercial campaign spokesperson to raise scholarship money for graduating seniors. As an aspiring orator and journalist, Jessica’s fervent vigor for public speaking grew during junior high school as she won several speech competitions at the local, state, and national levels through the BETA Club, a community service organization. Her speeches, which focused on methods to improve the deploring condition of her generation, garnered her national attention in January 2000 and she was chosen to introduce the US Secretary of Education at a teacher’s conference held in New Orleans. Secretary Richard W. Riley, impressed by the maturity and intelligence Jessica possessed at 15, told her, “I’ll never have to worry about forgetting you. You’re going places and fast.” From that day on, Jessica’s career focus had an additional path – politics.

Jessica successfully held important leadership positions during high school. Her freshman year, she served as Black History Club President and BETA Club President. Into senior high school she was elected sophomore class president. Her junior year, she was elected junior class vice president, the vice-president for the West Jefferson Chapter of the National Honor Society, and selected as the dance team captain. Now in her senior year, Jessica holds the positions of student council president and dance team captain while maintaining a 4.9 GPA on a 4.0 scale. Jessica serves as a student reporter for the television show “Education Plugged In” while writing for the New Orleans newspaper The Times-Picayune. She was named Jefferson Parish Student of the Year, a title she also received in 1999 along with Region VI Student of the Year. She is a National Achievement Finalist.

Jessica’s dedication to community involvement has been a main pillar in her life. She has served as a tutor for the Jefferson Youth Foundation in Marrero, LA for over seven years and has dedicated over 200 hours to the program. Jessica has served as a mentor for St. Joseph the Worker’s Unity Youth Group in Marrero for the past two years. She also volunteers at her old elementary school and participates in several community service projects through the organizations she holds membership and offices in. Jessica’s efforts in the community have been recognized by the Trailblazer Award for her work in her home and school community in 2000. She also received the Cox Communication’s Hero Award for her work with the mentally challenged in 1999.

Jessica is an accomplished dancer. As the dance team captain, Jessica was selected as an American All-Star Dancer for the past two years. She has participated in several plays, the most profound entitled “Addict” in which she played a character addicted to drugs.

After graduating from Florida A & M University with a degree in broadcast journalism she became an Investigative Reporter for CBS News in Hampton Roads, VA. Jessica hopes to one day lead the country as President or become a renowned journalist in the ranks of Oprah Winfrey and Barbara Walters. Jessica is definitely every woman.

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Class of 2003

Sarah LaBrie

Hometown: Houston, TX

high school: St. John’s School

college: Brown University

MAJOR: Comparative Literature (French, Spanish)

GRAD. PROGRAM: New York University (MFA)

Sarah LaBrie grew up in Houston, TX and graduated from Brown University in 2007 with degrees in Comparative Literature (French, Spanish) and Literary Arts. She is a second year MFA candidate in Creative Writing at New York University, where she was one of three incoming students to be awarded a Writers in the Public Schools Fellowship in 2011. As a WIPS fellow, Sarah volunteered with the Teachers and Writers Collaborative in the New York public school system, organizing poetry and fiction workshops for second and fifth graders at the Florence Nightingale School. For the 2012-2013 school year, Sarah will teach introductory creative writing at NYU. She has also worked on the staff of NYU’s Writers in Paris program, where she assisted in the general daily maintenance of the university’s study abroad program for undergraduate fiction writers and poets.

Sarah’s fiction has been published in the literary journals Epoch and Encyclopedia Vol. 1. A-E. Her non-fiction appears in the LA Weekly and online for This Recording, The Hairpin and The Millions among other places.

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Class of 2003

Brandon Cook

Hometown: Dulles, VA

high school: American International School of Budapest

college: Yale University

MAJOR: Linguistics

GRAD. PROGRAM: University of Wisconsin (2008, MA); University of Notre Dame (PhD Candidate)

Brandon graduated from Yale University (ES) in Linguistics in 2007. Immediately after his B. A., he spent a year of preparatory study at the University of Florence, Italy, and the following year he began a master’s degree in Art History at the University of Wisconsin – Madison which he completed in 2010. 

He is currently a PhD Candidate at the University of Notre Dame in the fifth year of his program in Medieval Studies. As an art historian, Brandon studies the art and architecture of thirteenth-century France and its relation to medieval theology and aesthetics.  He will be spending the next years writing his dissertation on French Gothic sculpture and medieval theories of sculpture. He hopes to teach Art History at the university level following the completion of his PhD. 

Brandon participated in the 2011 Equity and Diversity Summit and stays in touch with the Program whenever possible.”

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Class of 2003

Daphra Holder

Hometown: Brooklyn, NY

high school: Nightingale-Bamford

college: Princeton University

MAJOR: Political Science

Daughter of two Caribbean immigrants, Daphra Holder has always known what it’s like to work hard to achieve goals. Part of becoming an informed citizen is acquiring some degree of knowledge and education, a point that Daphra’s parents have always stressed.

Community has always been important to Daphra because she believes that it has the power of “eliciting talents that otherwise may have lain dormant.” The majority of her involvement has been in her immediate school community at the Nightingale-Bamford School (NY) where she has advocated for her class for the past two years as president, acting as a liaison between the administration and the student body. She is most involved in her school’s Forensics: Speech & Debate team. As one of the early members of the team, captain of the team for the past two years, and novice director in her sophomore year, Daphra has seen the team grow from its seminal stage as one of the only all-girl teams on the circuit to becoming successful on both the national and local levels. Both positions of leadership have allowed her to develop and hone her interpersonal skills. Her involvement in her school is not purely academic, since she has competed all four years on her school’s varsity badminton team and last year was distinguished with the title of being the third ranked doubles team in her school’s athletic division.

When not in school Daphra enjoys volunteering and has dedicated over five hundred social service hours in her high school career. Her love of community service has reached abroad and included involvement in the program, Experiment for International Living. This enabled her to travel for one month in Belize, to immerse herself in a foreign culture and along with other students from all over the United States, to build an annex to a local school in a small village. Another program that she has devoted a lot of time to is Prep for Prep, a “highly selective leadership development program that incorporates a rigorous fourteen month academic component to prepare students for placement in leading independent schools and continues to work closely with students through high school graduation and beyond.”

Outside of school Daphra has already began to build up a list of notable work experiences: Press Intern for New York’s State Senator Hillary Clinton, a summer internship in the Small Business sector at the financial firm JP Morgan & Chase, a fall internship at Columbia University’s Center for Environmental Research and Conservation (which she got through attending a summer session at Columbia University) and work as a Junior Giving Committee solicitor for Prep for Prep’s eighth annual Alumni Giving Campaign.

Her hard work has also earned her recognition from a wide array of sources: Magna Cum Laude from the National Junior Classical League (NJCL), she has received her school’s citizenship and leadership award (the Nightingale NB), named an Outstanding Participant by the National Achievement Scholarship Program, named a Goldman Sachs Scholar, and ranking first in Doubles C bracket in her leagues Badminton Championships. Her most recent recognition includes being named an AP Scholar by the College Board and a New York Women In Communications, Inc. Finalist. She hopes that her list of accrued scholastic distinctions speaks for her interests and dedication in varied fields.

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Class of 2003

Ihotu Ali

Hometown: Minnetonka, MN

high school: Hopkins HS

college: Macalester College

MAJOR: International Studies

GRAD. PROGRAM: Columbia University (2011, MPH)

Ihotu Jennifer Ali, MPH, LMT (she/her) is a holistic health practitioner specializing in myofascial release therapies including Craniosacral, Arvigo Maya Abdominal, and Prenatal and Infant Massage as a Spinning Babies Aware Practitioner. ® She offers massage therapy and health coaching around hormones, nutrition and exercise, especially for bodies with menstrual, pelvic or low back pain, high stress or digestive conditions, trauma histories, or a sense of disconnect and discomfort around sexuality, reproductive health, creativity, family or community. 

Her experience over a decade in femme and family health includes years as a birth doula and lactation counselor, dancer and yoga teacher, rape crisis counselor, community health program manager, and in health policy and research with the U.S. Congress and United Nations.

Raised between Minnesota and Nigeria among both traditional and Western medicine, Ihotu strives to offer blended and evidence-based care in ways that are also affordable, consent- and trauma-informed, gender fluid, and ancestrally rooted. Her coaching integrates African and other indigenous practices through modern forms of ceremony and cleansing, circle practice for addressing conflict and violence, altar making and healing arts. She works creatively with individuals, community leaders, and business owners to find a more grounded way of life – clarifying purpose and setting boundaries around family, work and finances in order to make space for rest and recovery as well as abundance, generosity, justice, and supportive community through hard times. www.blackmoonbodywork.com

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Class of 2003

Julian Miller

Hometown: Winstonville, MS

high school: MS School for Math & Science

college: Harvard University

MAJOR: Government

GRAD. PROGRAM: Univ. of Mississippi School of Law (2013, JD)

Julian D. Miller is currently an associate attorney at Forman Watkins & Krutz LLP in Jackson, Mississippi, where he focuses his practice on a variety of civil litigation matters, including commercial litigation, general and products liability matters, governmental litigation and appeals in state and federal court. However, his main focus is developing anti-poverty projects in economic development, public health, and education in the Mississippi Delta that will have a transformational impact on public policy in Mississippi.

He was born and raised in the Mississippi Delta region in Winstonville, MS. He was educated in the MS Delta public school system, graduating from the MS School for Mathematics & Science. He matriculated at Harvard University and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in government in 2007.  After college, he returned home to the MS Delta to do anti-poverty and community development work there.  As the program coordinator for the MS Delta Initiative of the Dreyfus Health Foundation, he organized an anti-poverty initiative called New Delta Rising, bringing together a group of 200 community organizers across 11 core MS Delta counties to develop county-based, grassroots, economic development projects that emphasize other areas of social good (public health, education, etc.).  He is a co-founder and board vice-chairman of the Delta Fresh Foods Initiative, where he is working to developing community food systems throughout the MS Delta as both as a means of economic development as a means of preventative health.  He successfully procured a $600,000 in grants to fund two Good Food Revolution projects in Bolivar County and Quitman County in the Mississippi Delta to develop local community food systems in those counties led by youth. He joined the MS Food Policy Council to lay the foundation for the development of a sustainable, equitable statewide food system based on worker-owned cooperative farms.

He is currently working to establish the Reuben V. Anderson Center for Justice to implement programs in poverty reduction, educational advancement, public health equity, community and economic development, and children’s legal rights in Mississippi. He chronicled some of his anti-poverty work in the Mississippi Delta in a chapter in a book entitled, Problem Solving for Better Health: A Global Perspective. He also has other publications to his credit related to public policy and economic justice.

He graduated from the University of MS School of Law in December 2012 with honors. He is served as a judicial law clerk for the Honorable Presiding Judge T. Kenneth Griffis, Jr. of the Mississippi Court of Appeals. He was formerly an associate attorney at Butler Snow LLP in Ridgeland, MS & Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP in Jackson, MS. He is licensed to practice in all state and federal courts in Mississippi. He is currently pre-law director and professor at Tougaloo College, and the founding director and adjunct professor of the Education Law & Policy Clinic at Mississippi College School of Law.

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