Nearly 700 students joined the Lafayette family this fall. They bring with them a history of passions and convictions, experiences and knowledge, struggles and triumphs. Meet a few and recognize the potential they hold to transform the College and the world.

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Sej Cho ’23

Hometown: Irvine, Calif. (via Mexico City and Seoul, South Korea)

Won national taekwondo championship.   While his study of taekwondo started late compared to others his age, Cho worked an extra 30 minutes at the end of each practice. “I was the only one with a beginner belt in my age group, which was a bit embarrassing,” he says. But his parents encouraged him to continue even when he didn’t want to as a 12-year-old. Soon he was competing at state-level tournaments. He struck hard with a win as California’s state champion as a 17-year-old red belt. From there he flew to Detroit to take on other state champions. He bested them all in a round-robin tournament. “It showed me that results will follow when I practice and follow through,” he says.

Charlie Mirsky ’23

Hometown: Boca Raton, Fla.

Founder and former national political director of March for Our Lives.   After a gunman entered and shot students and teachers at his friend’s school in Parkland, killing his former fifth-grade teacher, Mirsky called his friends together and said his school massacre couldn’t be like the others. Soon an op-ed and video they made went viral, and $8 million in donations was in hand. The group established its nonprofit status and planned a march on Washington, D.C. Eight hundred thousand gathered in the capital, and 900 sister marches across seven continents activated young people everywhere. Mirsky moved to D.C. in his senior year, became a registered lobbyist, advocated for gun reform, attended the State of the Union address as Nancy Pelosi’s guest, and earned an American Ingenuity Award from the Smithsonian.

Perry Zimmerman ’23

Hometown: New York City

Raised over $4 million over 10 years through Cycle for Survival.   At the Equinox gym in NYC, supporters take turns riding stationary bikes for eight hours as a fundraiser for cancer survivors. Zimmerman was born with genetic retinoblastoma, an eye cancer. At age 2, she was diagnosed with brain cancer. At age 11, she had an osteosarcoma in her leg. The same cancer presented in her shoulder last year. “I often speak in the ‘we,’” says Zimmerman, “since so many doctors, nurses, family, and loved ones have been with me through this journey. But it is also what fuels me.” She credits the passion of her family for raising money in order to “give back to the doctors and hospitals that have done so much for me.” That’s why she is drawn to a future in medicine. “I know what my worst week has been like, and no other person should go through that,” she says. “We will find a cure.”

Deja Jackson ’23

Hometown: Seattle, Wash.

His team won best high school hack at the Def Hacks hack-athon at Microsoft headquarters.
At this 24-hour marathon of exploratory programming, Jackson’s team worked on an accessibility app that would help individuals who are differently abled through technology. His team has worked in that area before and won a 12-hour tech competition at his high school with a voice-activated, hands-free search engine. This time the team ventured into artificial intelligence, building a fully functional program called Eyedentify, which recognizes objects placed before it, whether online or offline, or in English or any other language. “I only got three hours of sleep, but in the end, we really impressed the judges.”

Teresia Sami ’23

Hometown: Nairobi, Kenya

Improved access to education for Kenyan children.   “Nothing unique can happen if I take a conventional path” is the thinking of Sami. “I could earn a 4.0 and graduate with a degree but have no impact,” she says. She is interested in ways to grow the community despite adversity. Access to education and information is a challenge for many in Kenya as children lack books and teachers. So Sami began a book drive and solicited help from publishers. More than delivering books to kids, she also served as a mentor and sat with the children and read aloud to them. “I could be great at what I do, but it’s better to make everyone else great around you,” she says.

Don Bosco Haingura ’23

Hometown: Rundu, Namibia

An orphan who rose to the top of his class and country.   After Haingura’s mother died, he was raised by his aunt, a single mom at the time who had her own children and Haingura’s siblings. Fees for school and the cost of uniforms often kept him from attending, but he was selected in seventh grade to attend a school for gifted underprivileged students. He later was chosen to represent Namibia at Ashinaga African Initiative, a rigorous program to develop future African leaders through education abroad. He joined other representatives from sub-Saharan countries for a year of study and preparation in Uganda, where he met a Lafayette admissions representative and talked about his passion for engineering. “Everything has a way of taking care of itself,” he says.

Matt Diaz ’23

Hometown: Bronx, N.Y.

Won an ESPY, the awards given out annually by ESPN.   Diaz created Fair Play, a coalition of students, teachers, coaches, and lawyers that won a class action lawsuit over the disparities in resources allocated to NYC schools for sports. In junior high, Diaz’s school only offered boys and girls basketball. “Black and Latino schools in NYC had 15 teams compared to 25 teams at schools of other races,” he says. Diaz worked to get city council to pass a bill that would lift the veil on Department of Education funding and team options at schools. This work was recognized with the inaugural Billie Jean King Youth Leadership Award at ESPN. “I went through the same school system as so many other young people and got to impact the future for so many other people in ways I can’t even imagine, all because I worked hard and listened to my mentors, who said nothing is impossible,” he says.