Each spring, Tisch College welcomes new first years and sophomores into it’s flagship Tisch Scholars program. An innovative leadership program that develops sophisticated civic skills over several years, Tisch Scholars are leaders for civic engagement and catalysts for change on campus and with partner organizations.

As the program’s newest participants, these students will spend the spring semester taking the class Education for Active Citizenship. This foundational course teaches students to understand community assets, identify root causes of issues, enter communities as outsiders and manage projects.

The newest Tisch Scholars are:

Hafsa Anouar, A15
 Originally from Morocco, Hafsa most recently attended African Leadership Academy (ALA). Located in South Africa, this pan-African academy strives to develop the next generation of African leaders. There, she focused on entrepreneurship as the process of identifying needs, and designing and implementing solutions, while involving local communities in the process.  Eager to engage others in social entrepreneurship, she and a group of her Moroccan friends initiated Rabat Entrepreneurial Challenge (REC), a six-day summer training program that promotes entrepreneurship amongst youths in Morocco. Hafsa believes that the Tisch Scholars program is a marvelous opportunity to expand her knowledge, experience and network by helping people help themselves.

Mariana Berenguer, A15
Mariana BerenguerBorn and raised in Bogota, Colombia, Mariana joined the Tisch Scholars program with the hopes that she will find new tools to make a difference, and that she will trigger changes in the communities where she volunteers. While volunteering for several social service programs in Colombia, Mariana developed a passion for working with children and helping improve their opportunities by educating and motivating them. She is also interested in promoting intra-community organization in order to bring about local change. Mariana has been enjoying her first year at Tufts and is excited for all that lies ahead.

Pooja Beri, A15
Pooja Beri In high school, Pooja led a student outreach initiative helping orphans affected by Agent Orange during the Vietnam War. This experience broadened Pooja’s passion for working among international societies. In addition, she has worked within her community in Dubai to better the conditions of the labor force there by distributing food, clothing and other necessities. Coming to Tufts, and participating in the Tisch Scholars program, she cannot wait to continue educating and learning from communities on this side of the globe.

Ben Berman, A15
Ben Berman As a ninth grader, Ben used his power as a student delegate on the school board to respond to the national obesity problem by revamping the school cafeteria. Supported by research and grant proposals, his project included a new menu, an equipment and aesthetics update and a program that supported local businesses by bringing local chefs to cook lunch. He also helped more students afford lunch by lowering prices. In addition, he has volunteered as a coach, and with a program that combats poverty by educating disadvantaged youth living in Guatemala City. He is part of BUILD, a student-led sustainable development program that focuses on Guatemala and Latin America. He is also a team member of LIFT’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program.

Meghan Bodo, A15
Meghan BodoMeghan attended Guilderland High School in New York, where public service shaped much of her experience. She worked with Youth Ending Hunger to promote awareness of hunger issues, organize food drives and volunteer at food pantries. In addition, as a member of the local National Honor Society chapter, she participated in various community service events, including annually helping make Thanksgiving dinners for those in need. Because Meghan has a passion for learning about culture, she devoted much of her time to her high school’s International Club and to the creation of the Cultural Fair, an event dedicated to promoting cultural diversity and equality. Meghan hopes to further her work in active citizenship in the Medford and Somerville areas through the Tisch Scholars program.

Veronica Brady, A15
Veronica Brady Veronica has a strong background in community-based service work. During this past summer as a Learning Coach at Harlem RBI, she worked collaboratively with teachers, social workers, specialists and campus managers to provide academic and cultural programming for inner-city youth. During high school, she co-founded a peer-mentoring program, which connected students experiencing cognitive and social delays with other students in the high school. Veronica was also co-president of A World of Difference, through which she worked with school administrators, guidance counselors and social workers to devise and lead workshops on stereotyping and sexual harassment. Veronica plans to major in International Relations and Arabic, with a focus in Middle East, and is looking forward to more opportunities to engage in active citizenship at Tufts University!

Monica Brown-Ramos, A15
Monica Brown-RamosMost of Monica’s extracurricular activities in high school were devoted to serving her community. For three consecutive summers, she volunteered at a local hospital assisting medical and research staff. During the fall season, she combined her passion for soccer and community service and actively participated in a soccer league called the Holland Program, which helps children with special needs. In this program, she taught elementary-aged children simple rules of soccer and helped them enjoy the game. She also was a member of Best Buddies where she tutored special needs children in mathematics. As a high school senior, she was secretary of her high school’s chapter of the National Honor Society and organized a number of events, such as food drives and Red Cross blood donations. This past summer she volunteered at the Ronald McDonald House in New York City.

Valerie Cleland, A15
Valerie Cleland Valerie spent the past two years in Wales at United World College of the Atlantic. There, she worked with the Marine Environmental Monitoring Service and lead beach clean ups, taught local Girl Scout and Boy Scout groups about marine sustainability, ran a sustainability focus week and a lobster rehabilitation and successfully campaigned for the dining hall to serve only sustainable seafood. She is passionate about the oceans and cares for all things that swim.  Contributing to the community is a part of her core philosophy. Valerie has seen how one passionate teacher can change the mindset of an entire class of students, and how that class can start to change the community. She aspires to be an active citizen and make positive change in our community.

Craig Cooper, A15
Craig CooperCraig is a pre-medical student planning on majoring in biopsychology.  A recently certified Emergency Medical Technician, he is a member of Tufts Emergency Medical Services, the pre-medical society and also played club soccer this last fall. In high school, Craig volunteered in soccer programs for autistic and special-needs youth, and coached recreation soccer teams of elementary-aged boys. He also assisted in a nursing home, volunteered in a homeless shelter and built houses with Habitat For Humanity in Florida. Craig was also a member of the National Honor Society, the Foreign Language Honor Society and the Planning Board at his high school.  He was also a National Merit Commended Student and played on the varsity basketball team and the varsity soccer team. He is a graduate of both Sharon High School and The Prozdor program of Hebrew College.

Carlota Fernández-Tubau Rullo, A15
Carlota Fernández-Tubau RulloOriginally from Madrid, Spain, Carlota is excited to continue to integrate her academic pursuits and her strong commitment to social justice. At age 15, she was awarded a scholarship to attend United World College of the Adriatic, in Italy. In the following two years, she facilitated workshops for high school students on constructive engagement in conflict while also working towards achieving health care and educational equity in the United Arab Emirates and towards bringing about international development in Kenya. In addition, with the purpose of promoting intercultural understanding, combating racism issues, and integrating immigrants into society, she founded and developed a social action project for asylum seekers placed in an Italian detention centre. At Tufts, she is an active member of the Refugee Assistance Program (TU-RAP), a member of the Program of Narrative and Documentary Practice and  a member of BUILD Latin America.

Kalkidan Gezahegn, A14
Kalkidan Gezahegn Kalkidan has focused a lot of her active citizenship efforts on the youth in her community. Back home in Florida, she volunteered with many service groups including Five and Alive, which raises funds for malaria care for African youths and  Community Connections, a program that helps struggling mothers and children.
At the same time, she served as the youth choir director at her church and began a school in which she taught children Amharic (the main dialect spoken in Ethiopia) and Ethiopian history and tradition. At Tufts, Kalkidan volunteers with Let’s Get Ready to prepared high school juniors and seniors for their SATs and the college application process. In addition, she’s began tutoring a student who suffers from cerebral palsy.

Emani Holyfield, A15
Emani HolyfieldEmani is interested in studying sociology, community health and child development. Before she came to Tufts, she enjoyed volunteering in the Pediatric ward of the Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena, California, being a youth representative of the SPIIn (Scholastic Partnership for Immunization Initiative) program through the Pasadena Public Health Department and reading to the elderly in ‘Love for Reading’, a program she started in May 2010. At Tufts she has been selected to be a youth health representative for Peer Health Exchange (PHE). In PHE, she helps teach a pregnancy prevention workshop to ninth-graders in inner city Boston high schools.  This workshop is a part of a comprehensive health curriculum that involves college students educating high school students.

Amber Rose Johnson, A15
Amber Rose JohnsonIn 2008, Amber Rose became a member of Young Voices, a research and advocacy organization in her home city, Providence, Rhode Island. Then, in 2010, Amber served on the Rhode Island delegation for Race to the Top, helping bring $75 million into Rhode Island for education reform. Also in 2010, she addressed the U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, at a United States Department of Justice roundtable focused on domestic violence. Most recently, Attorney General Holder appointed Amber the youngest member of the Justice Department’s National Advisory Committee on Violence against Women. Meanwhile, competing in a field of 325,000 students, Amber rose to the top and was named the 2010 Poetry Out Loud National Champion.  Drawing on her success, she performed two poems on a poetry album through Universal Studies alongside James Earl Jones, Ruby Dee and Meryl Streep. Amber is working to combine her poetry and her advocacy work in order to create new ways of dealing with issues.

Patrick McGonagle, A15
Patrick McGonagleBorn and raised in Los Angeles, California, Patrick began attending boarding school in Dublin, Ireland at age 12, and spent the next five years there.  It was there that he developed an active interest in Irish politics and public service.  In 2009, he was selected to represent Ireland at the European Youth Parliament in Ukraine, and has been actively involved in public service and domestic politics ever since.  In Dublin, he was also involved in a number of Irish charities and he volunteered for local politicians.
In addition, Patrick enjoys reading and is a huge Hemingway fan.  He loves playing basically every sport, including soccer, basketball and tennis.  Here at Tufts, he is a member of the rugby team and would like to be an International Relations major.

Najeia Mention, A14

Najeia Mention Since the summer of 2010, Najeia has been working with the University of Connecticut 4-H Summer and Year-Round Fitness and Nutrition Education Program (SYNEP). As a teen facilitator, and later a lead worker, she went to different camps throughout New Haven, Connecticut, to talk to children about eating healthy foods and exercising daily. She tailored lessons according to the ages of the children she was engaging and led interactive, physical activities to incorporate exercise into the children’s fun. With her passion for health and nutrition, on campus, Najeia works with the Balance Your Life health and wellness group. The group helps students eat well and become active. She is interested in eliminating ethnic and racial inequalities so as to eliminate their effects on a community’s health.  She is motivated to eliminate these inequalities because she saw firsthand the effects of such inequalities in her own community growing up.

Katelyn Montalvo, A15
Katelyn Montalvo Katelyn has been a part of the student-run non-profit organization New York 2 New Orleans (NY2NO) for three years.  With this program, Katelyn organized trips in which high school students from New York City went down to the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans, Louisiana, and farmed at a local urban farm/ alternative school.  On this farm, students composted and harvested, and thus gained manual skills involved with agriculture and sustainability.  As an organizer for NY2NO, Katelyn facilitated workshops, teaching about wealth disparities in the communities in which they volunteered. In New York City, Katelyn volunteered at urban farms, schools, hospitals and started an urban garden in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn.

Victoria Oliva Rapoport, A15
Victoria Oliva RappaportVictoria Oliva is from Amherst, Massachusetts. She has worked in the areas of educational equity, disability rights and human rights. During high school, she taught English to adult immigrants at her local library and has tutored children in Guatemala, South Africa and closer to home in Holyoke, Massachusetts. As co-president of her high school’s Best Buddies chapter, Victoria formed a close friendship with her Buddy and worked with the chapter to promote awareness of and sensitivity to the rights of people with disabilities. Also, as co-chair of her local Human Rights Commission, Victoria learned about both local and global human rights issues and increased her advocacy of groups addressing these issues. Victoria’s interest in making meaningful links between her community commitments and her academic work drew her to Tufts, where she is excited about being a part of the Tisch Scholars network.

Ryan Parigoris, A15
Ryan ParigorisThroughout high school, Ryan was an active member and a leader of the student council, as well as his high school’s chapters of the National Honor Society and the French Honor Society.  He spent much of his high school career fundraising for various causes, including Haiti relief, Leukemia treatment, and support for the The Guide Dog Foundation. Ryan also organized several charity sports games to benefit New York City burn victims and planned a trivia tournament at his high school to benefit The United Cerebral Palsy Foundation. Ryan looks forward to being a Tisch Scholar and helping his surrounding communities directly and effectively.

Enxhi Popa, A15
Enxhi Popa Sustainability was Enxhi’s focus during high school. In 2009, she joined Groundwork Somerville and began to collaborate with other youths to bring healthy, locally produced food to the community. In Somerville, Enxhi worked in eight different gardens, where she helped grow organic food that was then harvested and sold at the Farmer’s Market. Her commitment to sustainability was deepened further when she was chosen as the New England youth representative for a national organization called ACE (Alliance for Climate Action). With help from ACE, Enxhi spoke at numerous conferences about healthy, locally produced food and about the importance of supporting farmers’ markets in order to fight obesity. Her work was based not only in the community but also in her high school. As Vice-President of the Green Club at Somerville High School, Enxhi, along with the other members of the group, started the high school’s first garden, where the club put in two raised beds and grew vegetables.

Thomas Stack, A15
Thomas StackThomas grew up in the Boston suburb of Hingham.  He was first introduced to active citizenship at a young age, when he took part in several elementary school volunteer trips to local shelters and soup kitchens.  However, it was not until 2008, when he volunteered extensively for the Obama presidential campaign, that he discovered his passion.  Since, Thomas has worked with a variety of groups, including Amnesty International and the Student Immigrant Movement, which seeks to gain educational benefits, such as in-state tuition, for immigrant young adults.  He plans on majoring in International Relations, with a possible regional focus in East and Southeast Asia.  He is excited to be joining the Tisch Scholars program and looks forward to working to improve Boston area communities.  In the future, he hopes to utilize the active citizenship skills he learns in the program to better the global community through humanitarian or diplomatic work.

Maya Taft-Morales, A15
Maya Taft-MoralesAs a young girl scout, Maya organized a toy drive to bring toys and supplies to a hospital in Mexico where her grandfather had worked. Later in Guatemala, Maya and her father helped out at an enrichment program for children who lived by the city dump. In addition, Maya was raised as a member of The Washington Ethical Society, an organization that recently initiated a sister-city partnership with El Rodeo, El Salvador.  She went on the organization’s first two trips down to El Rodeo, where she worked on a construction project.  Now, she hopes to return almost every summer for as long as possible. During a gap year, Maya served as a tutor and a mentor in the AmeriCorps program, City Year Miami. Working full-time with impoverished children in grades kindergarten through fifth grade was a challenging and incredibly rewarding experience.

Originally published February 2012