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Class of 2009

Amber Bailey

Hometown: Norfolk, VA

high school: Maury High School

college: University of Chicago

MAJOR: Political Science

For Amber “A.M.” Bailey, these words spoken by Robert Kennedy are more than an often-quoted phrase – they effectively verbalize her view on life.  Born into a rather affluent and influential family, Kennedy had the comfort of knowing that whatever goals he decided to pursue the resources to achieve these dreams would always be available; A.M. did not.  But what unites A.M. and Kennedy, a man she considers to be the most inspirational figure in American politics, is not their contrasting backgrounds but their passionate commitment to turn what others view as impossible into something real.

As a student, A.M. has excelled beyond expectations.  While she has always sought to challenge herself with a rigorous yet interesting course load, she has always made it clear that her chief priority is to perform to the best of her ability – no matter the subject matter; achieving the rank of salutatorian of her graduating class has only been validation of her work ethic and the seriousness with which she approaches her studies.

While in high school, A.M. developed a serious interest in government and the political process.  As a volunteer for the Virginia Department of Social Services, she became acutely aware of many of the problems facing urban areas.  In the summer between her junior and senior years, A.M. participated in Virginia Girls State, an event that turned out to be a life-changing experience.  At Virginia Girls State, she learned the importance of not only the democratic process but also the unique perspectives and opinions of individuals.  Because of the experience, she became much more appreciative of the impact that a group of people with varying beliefs and ideas can have on the outside world.

Besides the numerous honors and accolades that she has been awarded, A.M.’s greatest reward is the knowledge that her hard work has helped her achieve things that others previously thought unimaginable.  If someone were to examine her life from the outside, they may ask how her success thus far has been possible; A.M., however, had the vision as a child – and the support of her family – to know that her upbringing could only make her a stronger person and more appreciative of the success for which she is destined.

A.M. graduated from the University of Chicago with a BA in Political science in 2013.

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Class of 2009

Gabrielle Cole

Hometown: Oak Park, IL

high school: Oak Park & River Forest HS

college: Princeton University

MAJOR: Chemistry

Born two days after Christmas, Gabrielle Cole, has spent her life imbued and overflowing with the joy of living. As a child, she was often quite spirited, earning her the title of Diva, to which she has been trying to live down her entire teenage life. Once, at the age of four, she declared frankly to her mother that she refused to have joint Christmas and birthday gifts; as such an arrangement cut her toy collection in half. Instead, she demanded that she have separate birthday and Christmas gifts just as everyone else, whose birthdays were lucky enough not to fall near Jesus’. At the age of seven, she had already started a very profitable lemonade and cookie stand, whose profits she carefully tucked away under her bed for safekeeping. By twelve Lynette’s Cookies (named after her middle name) was off a running.

However, her fiery character has been tempered by time and although she still is unafraid to speak clearly and confidently when the time arises, she is now usually more laid back. She has a secret love of classical music, although she cannot pronounce their composers’ names. She loves to sit by the widow when it rains. She loves when people disagree with her opinions believing that differences make life interesting. She’s never met a cookie that she doesn’t like. She’s quick to laugh and uncomfortable writing in the third person. She is a dreamer and at time ridiculous. She is s patchwork quilt of her family, her fears, her community, and her dreams.

As a student, Gabrielle did not begin to take her studies seriously until eighth grade, due to her personal immaturity, as she is the first to admit. However, it is in high school that she found her niche. In high school, she attempted to experience everything she could, from community service to sports to student government, and found that she enjoyed all three. Through community service she was able to give back to those closest to her. She was especially active in developing new programs to bridge the achievement gap by working with the local middle and elementary schools. In sports, she was able to create a new circle of lifelong friends and develop her character as a competitor. Finally, though student government, Gabrielle was able to improve the high school experience of many of her peers and thus again act out her motto: help those closest to you. Nevertheless, academics came first and by the grace of God, she was able to accomplish many things both academically and in her extracurricular activities during her almost four years at Oak Park and River Forest High School.

After high school she entered into Princeton’s Class of 2013 where she chose to concentrate in Philosophy. She was actively involved in student government again, serving as her class vice-president and a member of her residential college board. Although she chose not to pursue basketball and track in college she picked up a new sport when she decided to walk on to the rowing team. She qualified to row at NCAA’s her first year in the second varsity boat and placed 4th at NCAA’s in her junior year in the varsity boat. In the summer of 2012 she also competed at the 23 and Under Rowing World Championships and won gold. She intends to pursue rowing at the Olympic level after graduation and afterwards enter law school.

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Class of 2009

Sebastian Flores

Hometown: San Lorenzo, CA

high school: Hayward HS

college: Harvard University

MAJOR: Political Science

Sebastian Flores was born to a home brimming with love, but afflicted by many of the societal pressures common to low-income households throughout the United States.  Drug abuse was perhaps the most pervasive and destructive issue, and because of this problem, his family was left without a father. However, through her own fortitude and foresight, Sebastian’s mother summoned the courage and willpower to remove herself and her four sons from this increasingly dangerous environment.  This courageous act had a profound impact on Sebastian’s life and he continues to strive for the same dedication and passion that his mother demonstrated through her commitment to her sons.

Sebastian’s penchant for reading and science was discovered at an early age as he excelled in his scholastic pursuits.  This proclivity for learning was no doubt strongly influenced not only through his family values, but also his desire to impact the world in a profound and meaningful manner.  He continued to thrive and flourish in his educational endeavors throughout high school, receiving straight A’s for all four years while taking numerous AP and Honors classes and ranking at the top of his high school’s graduating class.  Intellectual aptitude aside, Sebastian also inherited a modicum of his mother and older brother’s artistic talent, receiving various awards and honors for his work, including recognition at the Flowers Society annual Art Auction, an organization dedicated to funding research for AIDS victims.   

Throughout his life, Sebastian’s natural inclination for leadership has also been demonstrated in whatever situations he finds himself thrust into.  As President of the Bio-Tech club, co-founder and Vice-President of the Engineering Club, as well as having been an active member of student government throughout high school, his abilities as a leader have served as a vital aspect of his character.  Last summer, after working for Habitat for Humanity, Sebastian attended a leadership conference in Washington D.C. for students who had significantly impacted their communities through community service. However, Sebastian decided not to limit himself to the purely academic side of life and as a varsity athlete for cross-country and track and an avid basketball player, has branched out and taken advantage of the many opportunities afforded him.  This willingness and passion for partaking in new and innovative experiences is an essential quality that he cherishes as a boon to his success.

As Sebastian strides forward into this next phase of his life, the unknown yet promising future, he reminisces on the fact that people are defined by their actions. The experiences he’s been through, successes or otherwise, have coalesced to create an individual confident in the knowledge that he will overcome whatever trials and tribulations life puts forth and aspire to great heights.

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Class of 2009

Camille Everhart

Hometown: Pataskala, OH

high school: Pickerington HS North

college: MIT

MAJOR: Mechanical Engineering

Camille L.M. Everhart, though born in Ohio, considers Ithaca, New York, as her home. Camille, being raised now by only her supportive mother, is determined to defy the odds. Camille has endured the deaths of her two closest advocates. In 2001 and 2005, respectively, Camille suffered the deaths of her only grandmother and the only father she has ever known.

Since early childhood, Camille has relished the challenges of problem-solving. Camille’s accomplishments and volunteer activities include molecular biology awards of excellence, Science Olympiad co-captain, Team Physics vice president, science and math tutor, James L. Gibbs Memorial Community Service award, 2009 National Achievement Scholar, 98th percentile score on national standardized tests, green-belt in Korean Martial Arts with a sword, freestyle-ranking figure skating, National Honor Society, and she is well-poised to becoming the first African American valedictorian of her high school. One of Camille’s favorite activities is Team Physics, whose mission is to voluntarily travel to local elementary and middle schools, presenting interactive physics demonstrations to over 1000 students per year, in an effort to inspire children to become interested in and excited about the sciences. Camille credits Ms. Nancy Tresner for igniting her passion for molecular biology, and Mr. Doug Forrest for sparking and supporting her intense curiosity in physics. Both of their caring and gifted teaching has been immeasurable profound and inspirational in her life.

Subscribing to the philosophy of Carpe Diem, in the summer of 2007, Camille was selected as a high school intern at the Ohio State University Medical Center’s “M.D. Camp.” This groups of interns volunteered for an underserved community health project. Camille gained a deepened sensitivity to disparity in the healthcare access, quality and outcome for the underserved. During the same time, Camille also completed an auto-tutorial in an Algebra II course, receiving an “A.” Then, in the summer of 2008, Camille competed for one of ten NASA internship positions, among applicants from nine states. Selected as  NASA “INSPIRE” intern, Camille’s participation in a biological fluid physics pilot study, under the tutelage of a NASA biomedical engineer, Dr. Patricia Parsons-Wingerter, afforded Camille the honor of being names as a co-author on a research paper, tentatively scheduled to be published in 2009. Camille is also currently learning Japanese, in anticipation of traveling abroad in her junior year of college.

Camille desires her life’s work to reflect humanitarianism, intellect and a pioneering spirit. Camille’s chosen social duties, through her words and actions, are to empower others through mentoring, volunteering, and advocating a passion for lifetime learning. As an African American, female child of a single-parent household, she understand that life is sometimes unfair in both how and to whom opportunities are presented; equitable treatment of all, by all, is aspirational not empirical. Therefore, she chooses her battles. Camille does not ask for a carte blanche because society categorizes her as a “minority” in the United States. She merely asks to be given a truly equal opportunity to realize her ambitions. Refusing to be the exception, Camille aspires to be the rule.

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Class of 2009

Jonte Craighead

Hometown: Rocky Mount, VA

high school: Franklin County HS

college: MIT

MAJOR: Civil Engineering

Jonté’s childhood in rural Franklin County, Virginia was marked with a great degree of exposure and he quickly developed an interest in reading and computers, somewhat simultaneously, both of which would serve him in good stead throughout elementary school and much of his later life. He received high marks throughout elementary school, but also found other activities, such as recreational baseball and soccer and his school’s chess club, to be equally engaging. With a burgeoning academic record, Jonté took part in his middle school’s pilot math program, placing him on the fast track for many other opportunities. Throughout his middle school year, thanks to almost sacrificial support from his parents, Jonté found himself in the midst of several extracurricular activities including the school’s Odyssey of the Mind, debate, aviation, and competitive chess teams in addition to election as student council Vice President and President and selection, in 8th grade, for the Virginia Department of Education Student Advisory Committee. With these experiences, Jonté was able to broaden his view of the world and develop critical problem solving, leadership, and public speaking skills; these highly social activities encouraged him to consider a career in politics alongside a long-held vision of electronic design.

Jonté’s enrollment in the Roanoke Valley Governor’s School was a life altering event. Here, in an environment of bright, motivated students from neighboring localities, he was able to immerse himself wholeheartedly in a research intensive curriculum; early on, the perspectives he gained convinced him to consider a career in engineering. The most substantial aspects of his RVGS career were the development of an interest in chemistry, and later calculus, and the ability to engage in original research experiments. In research, he was able to explore engineering in depth, and most notably, was able to work for two years with a professor from the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute to enhance computation software for widespread adoption in schools. The result, while disengaging him from an interest in computer design as a career, was a much greater calling, one to chart the course of novel solutions to problems in various areas.

In the extracurricular activities of his high school career, this calling and his indomitable will to succeed for himself and the betterment of others had been substantiated. A member of the Franklin County High School Marching Band since 8th grade, Jonté had relentlessly practiced every nuance of marching techniques and from humble beginnings became Drum Major in his junior year. In some of his most rewarding works as a teen volunteer at his local library and local 4-H camp, he was tasked with promoting both educational and character development in creative ways while managing and encouraging his colleagues.

Jonté, today, is very much a product of his varied experiences, committed to using his skills to solve the problems of his community—on a local, national, and global scale. While graduating with a BS in civil engineering in 2013, he recognized and embraced the necessity of developing expertise in other fields to achieve his goals.

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Class of 2009

Brittany Coleman

Hometown: North Las Vegas, NV

high school: Advanced Technologies Academy

college: Duke University

MAJOR: Public Policy

Brittany Nicole Coleman is a talented young woman with an insatiable drive for excellence and a bubbly sense of humor. Although her early life was riddled with hardship in the form of homeless shelters, a drug addicted mother and an absentee father; she nevertheless, has attempted to live a life not defined by her situation in low class but rather one enhanced because of it.

Born two months premature, and four pounds too light, it seemed from the beginning that Brittany was destined to struggle. After spending her early life with her grandmother, Brittany went to live with her mother and three brothers. During this time, her mother was heavily into drugs and moved her family around from house to house, and sometimes, shelter to shelter for the better part of ten years. Then, Brittany and her mother finally entered M.A.S.H. (Mobile Assistance & Shelter for the Homeless) Village in 2001, where her mother was able to get the assistance she needed to quit drugs, and Brittany learned that school was more than a place to meet friends and enjoy recess, but rather a place for self- expression and growth.

Since then, Brittany has been on a track of academic rigor, striving always to be better today, than the day before. During her high school career, she has worked hard in school for four years to prove herself intellectually while at the same time, maintained healthy extracurricular involvement. She has involved herself in a number of clubs, including the National Honor Society, R.E.S.P.E.C.T Club (Respecting Every Student’s Pride, Ethnicity, and Culture Today) and others. During her junior year, after noticing that many students in her high school were ignorant of the college selection process, and understanding that a great influencer of teenage students are their peers, Brittany founded the College Prep Club which works to enlighten students about the college process and provide vital information about college preparation.

In 2008, Brittany made one of the best decisions of her life when she started interning for Barack Obama’s Campaign for Change. On this campaign, she came face to face with society’s most pressing issues. Not only was she able to exercise her leadership abilities and put her Spanish skills to the test, she was able to get in touch with her community like never before. In addition to the national impact on American lives the campaign promised, for Brittany the campaign became an opportunity to affect change on a grassroots level with the people in her own community; a mission she hopes to continue in the future.

Brittany recognizes the tremendous part that God has played in her life and is grateful that He has blessed her, her family and especially her mother with the ability to persevere in the face of extreme opposition. She knows that without the help of her teachers, mentors, friends, and family over the years, she would not be the person she is today and is sincerely grateful for their love and support.

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Class of 2009

Simone Watson

Hometown: Pensacola, FL

high school: Booker T. Washington HS

college: Duke

MAJOR: Human Genetics

GRAD. PROGRAM: Wake Forest School of Management (MA, 2014)

Today, we have many definitions of success. Some believe that achieving success means attending elite, private academies. Others believe that success is the result of either genius or supernatural ability. Yet, Simone Imani Watson, who attends a public school and considers Japanese anime a work of genius, prefers to follow Maya Angelou’s definition of success. The great poet once said that, “Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.” Born in August 1991, Simone grew up on a dirt road in the backwoods of northwest Florida. Despite being surrounded by corn fields and shooting ranges, Simone was raised with a sense of duty towards her fellows, her country, and most importantly herself. While her father, a country boy, instilled his appreciation of nature into Simone, her mother, a city girl, provided a sense of cultural diversity. Life in the backwoods would later prove to be an enhancement, not a barrier, to her love of learning. Even now, Simone believes that her rural upbringing is the fuel that drives her academic ambitions and strong character.

During high school, this young lady chaired FBLA’s popular Social Committee and served as the first black president of Rho Kappa, an academic honor society. She was also a member of the Inter-Club Council. She has attended the Hugh O’Brien Youth Leadership Conference, and has served in local organizations, such as Youth Leadership Pensacola. During school breaks, Simone volunteered at Legal Services of North Florida, a nonprofit legal agency. There, she was exposed to Pensacola’s poor and is motivated to aid the nation’s poor in the future.

In the fall of 2009, Simone entered Duke University where she currently pursues a major in History and a minor in Classical Civilizations. Her focus is always on academics but she also participates in several extracurricular activities. Simone was nominated by a professor to become an Undergraduate Writing Tutor. Under that position, she advises undergraduate freshman on how to write successfully at the college level. She is a sister of Chi Omega, the nation’s largest women’s organization, and also serves as Director of Sisterhood for the chapter at Duke. In spring 2011, she was selected as a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Research Fellow and spent the following summer conducting archival research. Simone currently plans to pursue graduate-level study in either law or archival studies. Her ultimate goal is to advocate for the preservation of African-American history in cultural institutions across the nation.

In the end, Simone will always remember that she likes herself, likes what she does, and likes how she does it. By this definition, Simone has achieved success.

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Class of 2009

Carolanne Sanders

Hometown: Plano, TX

high school: Plano Senior HS

college: Vanderbilt University

MAJOR: Anthropology

Words, actions, and musical notes. It is through a perfect blend of these three forms of self-expression that Carolanne recounts her life. Growing up as an African American in one of the country’s most affluent, predominantly white suburbs, Carolanne gained recognition among her peers as the “smart black girl,” an epithet that glorified the social and educational schisms that are still apparent in the city today. As a result, she focused her energy on finding a true sense of place within the Plano community and stumbled upon the incredible, connective power of literature and music in the process. Her dearest memories are of her mother, Vanessa, who loved to read to her before bed when she was little and encouraged every dance class, cello lesson, and trip to summer camp even though their family frequently couldn’t afford them.

At a very young age, Carolanne came to the conclusion that she would not be defined by demographics or physical appearance but by her individual choices and actions. Carolanne would go on to excel in both extracurricular and academic fields, ensuring that she give back to the community through involvement in groups such as Peer Mediators, an organization of teenagers selected by school administration to help equip their fellow students with skills for successful conflict resolution. Carolanne helped establish her high school’s official chapter of Model United Nations and currently resides as delegate for the United Kingdom. And when she’s not burying her head in classic literature—epic poetry is her favorite genre, Dante Alighieri her favorite poet—or in rehearsal, you can often find her out interacting with various residents of the city and striving to improve intercommunity relations.

An accomplished musician, Carolanne began her musical instruction on the piano and shifted her focus to the cello when she was twelve. She hopes to study cello performance and literature as a dual degree student in college and mentors aspiring young musicians through private instruction. All the while, she continues to take private lessons of her own and maintains membership in three competitive youth orchestras, leading the section as principal cellist in two of them. Carolanne serves on the Dallas Symphony Orchestra Teen Council, an advisory board for the major orchestra that aims to expand teen exposure to and involvement in classical music throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, and has even been featured in the introduction of The Music in Me, a nationally aired HBO documentary series on young musicians.

Carolanne hopes to translate her love of music and literature into a career as a professor of literature or an orchestral musician. “Words and musical notes have a sort of timeless, intangible beauty that you can’t find anywhere else,” she says. “I just want to be able to let people love them the way I do.”

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Class of 2009

Alexandra Sailsman

Hometown: Pembroke Pines, FL

high school: Everglades High School

college: MIT

MAJOR: Engineering

Alexandra Sailsman has spent seven years working with metal, ceramic, and composite materials. She received her BS in Materials Science and Engineering from MIT in 2013. Her work has ranged from construction materials to cancer research to aerospace. She currently works as a Process Engineer for II-VI Incorporated, manufacturing composites for the semiconductor industry and defense products. She received an MIT Institute award for community outreach and serves the youth and young adults at her church. She lives outside of Philadelphia with her husband, daughter, and cat.

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Class of 2009

Julius Mitchell

Hometown: Chicago, IL

high school: Walter Payton College Preparatory HS

college: Yale University

MAJOR: Political Science

Julius Mitchell is a proud Chicago native who grew up in a single-parent home with his mother, Tonya, and younger sister, Jade. Despite his father’s absence in his life, the unending support and guidance of his loving family—aunts, uncles, grandmothers, cousins—both grounded and cultivated his commitment to academic success. After being admitted to Walter Payton College Preparatory School, a selective-enrollment magnet high school near downtown Chicago, Julius spent the next four years participating in community service activities at his church, became the second-ever diversity chair of his high school, studied Mandarin Chinese in a State Department-funded summer language program, and maintained his competitive spirit as a national policy debater.

Julius is now a Political Science and Ethnicity, Race & Migration double major at Yale. During his stint in college, Julius has written for and edited several campus-wide publications including the Yale Daily News and Sphere Magazine, participated in intramural sports, volunteered for New Haven-based organizations, and studied intensive Mandarin Chinese in Beijing on the Richard U. Light Fellowship. He currently spends most of his time as business manager of Shades (a co-educational a cappella group dedicated to singing and to sharing music of the African Diaspora), as head recruitment coordinator at the Yale Office of Undergraduate Admissions (where he works with a team of enthusiastic student employees who facilitate outreach and recruitment projects for prospective students), and as a student representative on the Intercultural Affairs Council (a council of deans, administrators, and students who discuss and brainstorm policies and events to improve campus climate). Last summer, he completed an internship in Southeast Asia with the secretariat of the Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats where he learned diplomacy skills firsthand by interacting with politicians from Malaysia, the Philippines, Cambodia, Thailand, Singapore, Pakistan and more.

While Julius has yet to decide what he wants to do in the future, he is excited for the rest of his time at Yale and looking forward to many more opportunities to explore his passions after graduation.

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