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Kearns Center scholars are studies in resiliency, success

May 19, 2017
group of students wearing blue stoles and big smilesAssistant director of pre-college programs Kyvaughn Henry '09, '13 (MS), Kim Sitthisack '17, La'Ron White '17, Crystal Colon '17, Jordan Lanfair '17, and academic advisers Diamonique Santiago '14 and Brady Fergusson celebrate at the Kearns Center senior scholars ceremony May 4. (University photo / J. Adam Fenster)
man hugging woman

La’Ron White hugs Kearns Center academic advisor Melissa Raucci. (University photo / J. Adam Fenster)

Of the more than 1,300 graduating seniors who will receive degrees during this weekend’s commencement ceremonies, 75 have earned scholarships through the University’s David T. Kearns Center for Leadership and Diversity. The students were honored in a ceremony on May 4.

Established in 2002, the center has the goal of increasing diversity in higher education by building an educational pipeline, from undergraduate through graduate school, for students who might not otherwise have had access to higher education.

Named for the late David Kearns ’52— the former CEO of the Xerox Corp. who championed diversity as a business leader, policymaker, and University trustee—the center administers a variety of scholarships and offers other forms of support to students who are from low-income families, are the first person in their family to attend college, and in many, but not all, cases, are African American, Native American, or Hispanic—groups identified by the federal government as underrepresented in higher education.

Students served by the Kearns Center span the disciplines. This year’s graduates include English major La’Ron White, who will continue his education at the Warner School of Education this fall and hopes one day to start a counseling program. A Rochester native and East High School graduate, White says, “It’s a daunting task to put what the Kearns Center means to me in words. I owe a great amount of my success, as well as my character, to the staff. I love them dearly.”

woman receiving an award from man

Biochemistry major Aryel Clarke was honored as a McNair Scholar. (Photo credit: David T. Kearns Center)

Also graduating is biochemistry major Aryel Clarke, who grew up near Cleveland. Her family was low-income, and neither of her parents, who had gone through what she calls “an ugly divorce” when she was 11, had attended college. She heads to the University of Wisconsin–Madison to pursue a PhD in biochemistry in the fall.

“I found it to be an overwhelming source of support for me,” she says of the Kearns Center. “When I joined the Kearns Center, I met a group of staff and students who understood my financial struggles and the stresses that come from having a less than perfect home life.”

“I’m genuinely impressed with the strength, dedication and focus of our graduating class,” says Beth Olivares, executive director of the Kearns Center and dean for diversity initiatives. “They’re entering graduate and professional degree programs in many disciplines, and the workforce in a wide variety of fields. What coheres them all is a desire to make the world a better place through the application of their talent and energy. I can’t wait to see the impact they make on the world in the years and decades to come.”

Here’s a complete list of the graduates, by scholarship program:

McNair Scholars
Charlotte Aten
Samantha Boerner
Ashley Bui
Aryel Clarke
Melia Douyon
Benjamin Gerstner
Elizana-Marie Joseph
Destiny Maitland
Eric Mestiza
Chizi Onyekwere
Carlos Rojas Mena
Caprecia Singleton
Kim Sittihisack
Jack Valinsky
Kearns Scholars
Gift Adikema
Jackie-Lynn Albright
Iman Ali
Chiamaka Alozie
Sierra Ballou
Kwame Bell
Michelle Benassai
Danielle Branton
Davon Brown
Crystal Colon
Darius Colson
Monsurat Fabanwo
Makenzie Gabriel
Jayne Godette
Charlisa Goodlet
Alanna Hardy
Terika Harrell
Tahreem Kamal
Jordan Landfair
Leon Lin
Jackquelin Loera
Ryan Mendoza
Anqesha Murray
Vinh (Aaron) Nguyen
Jhanmarie Ortiz-Garcia
Kasandra Reyes
Kanecia Ruiz
Pierrot Rutagarama
Manal Sidi
Bridgette Thomas
Lysa Vasquez
Tyler Vasquez-Dorn
La’Ron White
Nathaniel Woodard
Xerox Engineering Research Scholars
Comfort Adeyemi
Jon Aho
Abdulwahab Alhaji
Melissa Becker
Kelly Chang
Rannulu Dev Fonseka
Tristan Ford
Rebecca Gillie
Ling (Kelly) He
Shira Johnston
Stephanie Kamau
Mara Lanis
Raymond Lopez-Rios
Vito Martino
Ibrahim Mohammad
Zhayou Nie
Breanna O’Reilly
Amanda Smith
Zoe Tiet
James Tobias
Karan Vombatkere
Haitong (Tina) Wang
Michaela Wentz
Catherine Yip
Zirui Zang
Xueqi (Sophie) Zhang
Yiheng Zhou


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