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New Tisch Scholars: 2018-2019

We are excited to welcome 18 students into the Tisch Scholars program, which brings together Tufts undergraduates who are passionate about engaging in civic life and addressing problems in our communities. These students will now take the foundational course that provides a strong academic foundation for their work before they undertake service, advocacy, leadership, or research projects to address community-identified needs in Tufts' host communities.

The new Tisch Scholars in the 2018-2019 academic year are:

Eve Abraha

Eve Abraha

Ever since high school, Eve has maintained her engagement in the community by volunteering her time at the Veterans Affairs Hospital and by working as a mentor with several programs, including at her elementary school and with a group of at-risk high school students. Working in these positions showed her that life is not only about caring for yourself, but for others around you. For Eve, civic life is about being a strong compassionate leader and the person that is always there for others when no one else is. Currently, she is involved in numerous activities around campus dealing with civic life, such as the College Access Initiative—a team that brings in underprivileged students from the Boston area and give them insight on summer opportunities, how to apply to colleges, and more insight on their high school and college career paths.

Julia Asfour

Julia Asfour

Growing up in Chicago, Julia Asfour has worked with numerous communities. While interning at a senator’s office, she coordinated and led events and activities for various communities. She also participated in outreach programs designed to assess and ensure community well-being. Julia also spent her time consulting individual constituents and registering community complaints while interning for a state representative. In high school, she started the Students for Humanitarians Club. She conducted projects that provide aid to children in Chicago and to refugees in Syria. Growing up as a Palestinian, Julia has always felt a close connection to Middle Eastern politics. She has volunteered with multiple Arab organizations that promote awareness about the current situations occurring in the Middle East. Currently, Julia is pursuing a major in Community Health and a minor in Colonialism Studies. Her long-term career goal is to travel to Palestine in order to provide aid to refugees.

Alejandro Báez

Alejandro Báez

Alejandro’s civic engagement started early on in high school; he became heavily involved in his school’s Red Cross Club chapter, National Honor Society chapter, and volunteered at his local food bank. He became interested in giving back to his community that has provided for him. Alejandro carried this fervor for helping those around him when he came to Tufts, and is involved in Tufts United for Immigrant Justice, is the First-Generation Community Senator for the Tufts Community Union Senate, and volunteers with Tufts ESL. Through personally experiencing inequities and health disparities in his own various marginalized communities, Alejandro finds it increasingly important to build solidarity, understanding, and compassion across communities. Through this, he feels as though divisive issues can be bridged and solutions can be subsequently implemented.

Bizaye Banjaw

Bizaye Banjaw

Bizaye started her volunteering experience at 10 years old, tutoring students in her community. Her work only expanded from there. She became more involved in student and child programming in her neighborhood, connecting with families, administrators, and students. Her love for volunteer work and interest in the functions of the education system gave her the knowledge and skills to work for a statewide program through high school. With fellow students and faculty, Bizaye addressed the opportunity gap within the county and the nation. She learned about the education system from the perspectives of teachers, students, county administrators, and city leaders who were all dedicated to solving the problem at hand. In college, she continued her passion with working with young students in the Boston Public School system and applied to be a Democracy Coach with Generation Citizen, teaching students how to be active and vocal citizens. Moreover, upon arriving on campus, Bizaye immediately searched for fellow first-generation college students and has been an active participant in creating and maintaining a Tufts community representative of the needs and support of first-gen students.

Kamille Bernard

Kamille Bernard

Kamille is a sophomore from West Hartford, Connecticut. She plans to double major in Economics and Political Science. Throughout high school, Kamille conducted qualitative research that sought to aid in student success by investigating how student experiences differ based on social and cultural identities. Kamille has also organized and facilitated multiple diversity conferences as a part of initiatives to educate her school and local communities. While at Tufts, Kamille has maintained her dedication to social justice by serving as a student representative on the Equal Education Opportunity Commission, a student-faculty committee comprised of faculty volunteers and a student representative that discusses issues, events, and topics pertaining to diversity on campus and in the curriculum. Kamille is also a member of Tufts 180 Degrees Consulting, a student consulting group that works with nonprofits in the greater Boston area to achieve high-impact social outcomes. Kamille is very excited to continue her social justice work in the Tisch Scholar program and cannot wait to see what the program has to offer.

Sonya Bhatia

Sonya Bhatia

Sonya Bhatia grew up in a suburb in The Woodlands, Texas before coming to Tufts University. She is a passionate advocate and leader for inclusivity and holds a compassion that leads to her active role in civic engagement. Among Tufts campus, among her activities, she is most actively involved in leadership on the Tufts Observer and Strong Women Strong Girls. Through her creative endeavors, particularly writing, she has grown and navigated her own intersectional identity in White dominated spaces. Her own personal journey combined with the responsibility she feels to her community around her has propelled her to be a Tisch Scholar.

Hezekiah Branch

Hezekiah Branch

Hezekiah’s initial involvement in finding ways to empower communities started by being a part of organizations such as the Hawthorne Youth and Community Center in Roxbury, MA, and by participating in local programs and movements that focused on community development. After moving to South Carolina, Hezekiah developed a passion for technology and decided to use his technical skills to find solutions to issues in his community. Additionally, he interned at schools to specifically provide quality instruction to students of color and began training students with disabilities to participate in the Special Olympics. While at Tufts, Hezekiah’s focus on civic engagement has mainly been through founding the Capen Challenge, his participation in The Obama Foundation Boston Training Day, and working as Programming/Web Coordinator of Tufts Peace Games, an organization that teaches socio-emotional skills to students in the Medford/Somerville area. Hezekiah is very excited to see what forms of impact he will be able to create while a part of the Tisch Scholars program.

Ethan Fidalgo

Ethan Fidalgo

Ethan Fidalgo is a sophomore from Randolph, MA. While he is at Tufts University, he plans to study Psychology and Film and Media Studies. During his time in high school, he volunteered in middle schools by tutoring students and being an assistant to the teacher in the classroom. Working in these underresourced schools showed Ethan the importance of advocating for youth and giving them tools they would need as they advance in their academic career and beyond. To Ethan, civic life is about making the effort engage with the people around you in a way that strengthens the community as a whole.

Heresa Laforce

Heresa Laforce

Heresa grew up in the Greater Boston area, specifically Malden, Massachusetts. Along iwth participating in the Tisch Scholars program, she is a returning intern at the Tufts Women’s Center and a fellow at the Tufts Student Teacher Outreach Mentorship program—both spaces where she finds meaning and purpose. In the future, Heresa hopes to work in the fields of healthcare and public health. Her interests include DIYs, the Boston Harbor Islands, and some piping hot tea.

Mei Nagaoka

Mei Nagaoka Toyotoshi

Meghan O'Brien

Meghan O'Brien

Meghan O’Brien is a sophomore student studying Economics and a native of Franklin, MA. As a student at Mount Saint Charles Academy, she founded the school’s first and only political group dedicated to raising awareness about gender equity and other social issues. In that capacity, she led weekly discussions about current events. She partnered with the Women’s Center of Rhode Island and Haven of Grace Shelter, which serve victims of domestic violence, to organize a fundraiser and recruit volunteers. With their assistance, she coordinated a campaign to raise awareness about the warning signs of domestic violence. At Tufts, she teaches middle school students civics and advocacy skills as a member of Generation Citizen. In addition, she hopes to expand voter access and participation on campus as a member of JumboVote.

Tatijana Ollivierre

Tatijana Ollivierre

Tatijana Ollivierre is a sophomore from Brooklyn, NY. She plans to pursue an interdisciplinary major which will combine Psychology, Child Studies and Human Development, and Africana Studies. She has been an active member of various communities in New York where she worked to increase the visibility of and aid for students of color, as well as increase conversation about issues of social justice and inequity. Ultimately, she plans to continue to aid and advocate for youth when pursuing her career and is excited to gain the knowledge and skills through the Tisch Scholars program that will allow her to do so.

Mathew Peña

Mathew Peña

Coming from the Bronx, it was more than clear to Mathew that for children coming from neighborhoods like his, college was a dream and not an expectation. Since high school, he dedicated himself to helping underclassmen succeed and start to consider college through his school’s Boys Peer Mentoring program. When he came into Tufts, he made it his first priority to find a way to help students from similar backgrounds to get into college or have an opportunity to see the options available to them through the College Access Initiative  at Tufts. He plans on continuing to help first generation students both consider and get into college as a diversity intern in the admissions office and as a Tisch Scholar.

Trina Sanyal

Trina Sanyal

Trina Sanyal is a sophomore at Tufts with a penchant for asking lots of questions and creating/participating in communities that hold space for others and herself. She is currently a part of Tufts United Immigrant Justice, as well as Tufts South Asian Perspectives and Conversations, and is working as a peer leader at the Tufts Women’s Center. She believes in the importance of written and spoken language, and has found so much power in both of these art forms. She is a staff writer for the Tufts Observer, a staff member for the literary publication Cavity, and a poet for the Spoken Word Alliance at Tufts. She has found the most comfort and resilience in her own immigrant community, as well as those she finds at Tufts, and is looking forward to making this a focus of her scholarship at Tisch College through her work at the Welcome Project. Trina is excited to expand and understand her notions of civic life, and the ways in which her actions can be additive to the communities she cares about most.

Griffen Saul

Griffen Saul

Griffen Saul founded We Are Able in 2016 in tribute to his father, Brad Saul, who passed away in December 2015. We Are Able is a nonprofit dedicated to raising awareness and promoting empathy and acceptance for people with disabilities while educating the public on proper disability etiquette. The organization has engaged nearly a thousand students and corporations through its initiatives. An accomplished motivational speaker, Griffen was chosen to address 15,000 youth at the 2016 We Day Illinois, was named the 2017 We Day Illinois Youth Co-Chair, was featured as part of Allstate’s Good Starts Young campaign at the Aspen Ideas Festival, was selected as an Obama Foundation Peer Advisor for their Boston Training Day event, and was named the 2018 Newman Civic Fellow for Tufts University. Griffen is passionate in his belief that we are all able to be the change we want to see in the world.

Anéya Sousa

Anéya Sousa

Anéya Sousa is a sophomore at Tufts University who is an Interdisciplinary Studies major, combining clinical psychology, child study and human development, women's gender and sexuality studies, and Africana studies. She has been involved in a number of community service efforts, including volunteering at Massachusetts General Hospital, being a peer leader for the Africana Center, as well as the many clubs that she was a part of in high school. To Anéya, civic life means having the chance to connect with a broader community. She thinks of community interaction and community building as ways to form our own resources for survival in order to create sustainable practices of care for one another.

Matthew Tolbert

Matthew Tolbert

Matt Tolbert’s passion for community engagement began in his home of Nashville, Tennessee. He attended the city’s public schools for 13 years and became active in local politics, beginning with an internship on the campaign of the woman who would become Nashville’s first woman mayor. Matt continued working for local candidates, including two candidates for state house in the 2016 election cycle. Matt is passionate about urban transportation reform. He was the co-president of his high school’s pedestrian lobbying group, Stop! Take Notice, and a student board representative for Walk Bike Nashville, a local 501-c3 organization. At Tufts, Matt is an ambassador the Andrew Goodman Foundation, a voting and civil rights group, as well as a Democracy Coach for Generation Citizen. Matt believes changing the world around us for the better starts at the local level and that we have a responsibility to lift all voices, not just our own.

David Zhao

David Zhao

David’s civic engagement is rooted in the inspiration he has obtained from prominent figures in his life. These figures include upperclassmen who have who have constantly pushed him to be better, and his parents who taught him what it means to act selflessly. In high school, he lead his school’s Service Commission chapter and was active as a Questbridge Scholar, pushing for greater access to educational resources for the first-gen, low-income community. At Tufts, he is involved in 180 Degrees Consulting and will be engaged in the Asian American Center as a peer leader. He believes the only reason why he has the opportunity to be here is because of all the guidance and support he has received from his community. The only way to give back, in his mind, is to pay it forward.