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past, present and future.
Meet Our Scholars

Meet Our Scholars

We are very proud of our Scholars. Read what they have to say about being Foundation Scholars—in their own words.

Class of 2012 

Katherine Banks
Brooklyn—Stuyvesant High School

Yang Yang Chen
Flushing—Francis Lewis High School

Brendan Roche
Staten Island—Xavier High School

Erica Sheftman
Long Island City—LaGuardia High School of Music, Art & Performing Arts

Kimberly Herrmann
Bronx—Preston High School

kimberly_gray_smFor the first eighteen years of my life, I lived in the same house, on the same street, in a quiet, residential neighborhood of the Northeast Bronx of New York City. I hail from a working class family, with dedicated and caring parents who stress the virtues of learning and education to both me and my two younger sisters. I attended local public schools from K-8, and then a private Catholic preparatory school for grades 9-12. My time in both public and private education offered an array of compassionate teachers, a variety of creative academic programs, and a wealth of challenging learning opportunities, fostering my desire to learn more. Despite the stability of my surroundings, I was always intrigued by the diversity of my community, inspired by the many strands of culture and class coexisting within the city. When working for local political leaders during high school, I became increasingly interested in the connection between policy and community—eager to explore these issues through higher education.

Class of 2013

Thomas Hwang
Bronx—Horace Mann School

Katherine Olaskiewicz
Staten Island—St. Joseph Hill Academy

Gillian Farrell
Port Washington—Marymount School

gillian-farrellA native New Yorker, I was born and raised on Long Island, where I completed my first nine years of schooling. For high school, I attended Marymount School in New York City, an independent all-girls secondary school, from which I graduated in June 2009 with my forty-three classmates. I realized Harvard would present a completely different environment than I had ever known, and even though I had no idea what to expect, I was beyond excited to get to campus. As a freshman, I lived in Weld Hall, a freshman dormitory right in Harvard Yard. I absolutely loved everything about living in Weld: hanging out with my roommates and neighbors, meeting students from all over the world, and even listening to occasional spontaneous a cappella concerts in the stairway. My favorite freshman-year memory was centered around Weld; the last night of the first semester, all of my friends from Weld who were still on campus and I stayed up late into the night, just talking and reliving good times from the previous few months.

Currently, I am a junior in Lowell House concentrating in Chemistry, with a potential Secondary Field in Government. While I have the opportunity to explore different areas of chemistry each semester, from quantum mechanics to organic chemistry research, I have also had the time to take extremely interesting elective classes, such as “Landmarks of World Architecture” and “From the Hebrew Bible to Judaism, From the Old Testament to Christianity.” Each class is challenging and fascinating on its own, and taken together, they make for a stimulating semester. This past summer, I was offered the phenomenal opportunity to work as a summer intern at the Harvard Club. During my internship at the Club, I was not only able to develop new analytical skills, but also to meet great people who could give me knowledgeable advice. It was an absolutely wonderful experience!

Outside of the classroom, I am very involved in the International Relations Council, with which I help to organize and staff Model United Nations conferences on the high school and collegiate level. I am currently acting as the Under-Secretary-General for the General Assembly at Harvard’s University conference in February. I am also a Chair for World Model United Nations and will be traveling to Vancouver over Spring Break to facilitate a conference for university students from across the world. Finally, I have two part-time jobs on campus: I am a research assistant at Harvard Business School and an admissions counselor at the Harvard College Admissions Office.

The Harvard Club of New York Foundation has been an invaluable part of my time at Harvard thus far. Each fall, the HCNY Foundation hosts a dinner for the Undergraduate Scholars so that they can learn more about the Foundation, meet some of its leaders, and get to know one another. These dinners have been a fantastic experience and a great chance to connect with alumni who are involved in the Harvard-New York community.

Michael Ardeljan
New York City—Stuyvesant High School

michael_gray_smAs a first-generation American born to Romanian immigrants in New York City, I attended public school from kindergarten through to Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan before matriculating at Harvard in the fall of 2009. My years at Stuyvesant were great preparation for college by pitting me in a gruelingly competitive but rewarding academic environment; in a class of eight hundred bright minds, I acclimated to the demanding workloads of my teachers while enjoying the company of like-minded and greatly capable students. By coming to Harvard, I was extremely fortunate to enter the next phase of my education on a campus filled with thousands of gifted young people and a new set of surroundings to immerse myself in. During freshman year I lived on the first floor of Canaday Hall Entryway B. The “Batcave,” as my room soon came to be known—a name due to the stalactite-like ceiling and odd room location leading directly outdoors—became a central hubbub and ideal location close to the dining hall for the new friends and old ones I spent most of my time with.

This year I am a sophomore in Quincy House pursuing a concentration in History and a secondary concentration in German. During the spring semester I will be taking a mandatory history tutorial that is notorious for eating up all of a student’s free time, a history course on China from 1900 to present, a German language course on German politics and current events, and a philosophy course on existentialism and religion. Together, they will provide me with a wide-ranging but very stimulating set of topics to increase my historical knowledge and prepare me for my study abroad in the fall of this year. I will be traveling to Berlin for the first semester of junior year to take courses at Humboldt Universität, where I can learn history and economics in German!

In my free time I am an avid musician, playing alto and tenor saxophone in the Harvard University Wind Ensemble and alto saxophone in the Harvard University Band. Both have given me the opportunity to keep playing saxophone, while increasing variety with football games and other exciting events where the ensembles perform. I have also been teaching myself guitar for four years, and just this year joined the Club Lacrosse Team as a long pole defensive player. It has been two years since I played in high school, but I am looking very forward to hitting the field again this spring.

The Harvard Club of New York Foundation has been a very helpful and invaluable resource to me during my time at school. I was humbled and very appreciative of my selection to be a Foundation Scholar, which has assisted me in attending the college and has broadened my horizons by meeting my fellow New York scholars, as well as some individuals from the Foundation. This January break I had the chance to work as an intern at the Harvard Club under Chief Financial Officer Scott Grodnick. It was a fantastic way to gain work experience, meet wonderful new people in the Club, and even maintain a structured schedule while away from Cambridge. In my two-and-a-half weeks at work, I became well versed in Microsoft Excel, which proved integral to the projects I worked on for Mr. Grodnick. Chief among those I completed was a unified database of the entire active Club membership to use in the construction of the website and towards other organizational uses. I am extremely grateful that I was able to work there this winter, and I would not have rather spent my time any other way.

Keir GoGwilt
New York City—Stuyvesant High School

keir_gogwiltMy father grew up in Edinburgh and my mother was born in Indonesia but grew up in Rome. I was also born in Edinburgh, but have grown up in the New York City public school system. I spent my junior year of high school studying in Beijing before returning to graduate from Stuyvesant High School.

As a violinist, I have found the Harvard community incredibly supportive. The Office For the Arts is incredible, and faculty members like Robert Levin and Federico Cortese make me very happy that I chose this university over a conservatory.

In addition, many of the professors in other departments are extremely knowledgeable about music and performance. There are exciting opportunities for interdisciplinary studies. I have organized a class for next semester—to be taught by Federico Cortese in the music department and John Hamilton in the literature department—that will engage in an academic, interdisciplinary study of music performance. It will be an eventful collaboration between students and professors of many different fields.

For the past two years I have performed recitals at the Harvard Club. I am also looking forward to another recital opportunity there this coming year. The Harvard Club has been a warm, welcoming environment in which to perform. It has given me the opportunity to collaborate with great musicians and composers from Harvard and elsewhere, such as Matthew Aucoin ‘12 and Tobias Picker. The hall is wonderful, and I always enjoy meeting interesting Harvard alumni at the events.

This summer, I have been granted an Artist’s Development Fellowship to study music in Europe, and to travel to the Bowdoin International Music Festival where I will perform the Beethoven Violin Concerto. Next semester, I will be collaborating with Matt Aucoin on composing and performing a concert series at the Peabody-Essex Museum (hopefully in collaboration with Harvard), that will explore the limits of the program through recitals, lectures, outreach events, operas, and symphony concerts.

As a rising senior, I am very excited to begin work on my thesis in the literature department. I specialize in the study of music performance. I find it the ideal place to explore the intersection between my interests in the practical considerations of music performance as a performed criticism, and the seemingly more theoretical considerations of literary theory and philosophy. I find that my time studying at Harvard has changed the way I discuss and perform music, as well as more generally helped me discover new ways to encounter the world around me.

I am extremely grateful to be a HCNY Foundation Scholar, as well as for the wonderful, encouraging environment the Club has provided me as a musician and a student.

Class of 2014 

Paul Handorff
Brooklyn—Hunter College High School

Elizabeth Matamoros
Bellerose—St. Francis Prep

Jonathan Alvarez-Gutierrez
New York City—Collegiate School

Dylan Nagler
Brooklyn—Fort Hamilton High School

Asmaa Rimawi
Brooklyn—The Al Noor School 

asmaa“An embarrassment of riches” is a phrase that has crossed my mind so many times since I started my freshman year. The transition from a high school that was limited in number of class and clubs to Harvard was a little overwhelming at first, but in the best way possible. Harvard has made available to me many things I had only dreamed about in high school, whether it was to study abroad for the summer or to learn about such a specific topic such as medical practice during the Crusades. There is only one complaint I can make about Harvard: I will definitely graduate with a list of clubs and classes I still want to be involved in or take.

Class of 2015

Wahaj Chaudhry
Brooklyn—Brooklyn Technical High School

Stella Fiorenzoli
New York City—LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts

Theo McKenzie
New York City—Saint Ann’s School

Marina Molarsky-Beck
New York City—Bard High School Early College

Rosa Huang
Queens—Stuyvesant High School


I have found myself more at home within the boundaries of Harvard than I ever thought I would, or even could. I’ve been able to continue activities I’ve always enjoyed participating in as well as branch out into areas I’ve always found interesting but never had the chance to explore.

I am an amateur photographer and artist, and I’ve been able to learn more skills and continue photography through comping the Crimson. As a student of Spanish for over five years, I’m glad I am able to continue my language studies here, and I hope to earn credits toward a citation in Spanish. I spent the summer abroad in Spain, exploring practically the entire country, as well as studying and interning in León. When school started, I became a Student Mental Health Liaison (SMHL) representative for Mather House and continued as a mentor for Strong Women, Strong Girls, mentoring girls at Red Oak in Chinatown. I finished off my role as Director of Coalition with Harvard Act on a Dream in the Fall as well. This semester, I am continuing most of the same activities as I did in the Fall, as well as becoming more actively involved in Alpha Phi, my sorority. Academically, I am hoping to finish the credits necessary for my secondary in economics this semester by taking Corporate Finance, in addition to my three sociology courses.

As someone who personally battled immigration regulations, I am also grateful to have the opportunity to volunteer in a program where I can make a difference in a similar vein, through tutoring for Harvard’s Chinatown Citizenship, where I am able to help elderly Asians prepare for the naturalization process.

I am also very interested in the business field, and I am grateful for opportunities like the Crimson’s business board and the HCNY’s summer internship to be able to gain more exposure into real business projects.

Class of 2016

Fatma Akcay
Staten Island—Curtis High School

Neil Alacha
Queens—Brooklyn Technical High School

Adela Kim
New York City—The Horace Mann School

Margarita Kostova
Brooklyn—Stuyvesant High School

Jazly Liriano
New York City—Frederick Douglass Academy

Class of 2017

Tasnim Ahmed
Fresh Meadows—Stuyvesant High School

A writer and editor for the school newspaper, Tasnim received a gold key for the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards and honorable mention recognition in the Union Writing Contest. She was also a member of the National Honor Society and the Science Olympiad team and a performer in her school musical. Tasnim worked as a tutor during the summer before her senior year.

Tafari John-King
Brooklyn—Medgar Evers College Prep

Salutatorian and president of student government, Tafari received a scholarship from the National Security Language Initiative for Youth, which encourages language and cultural studies for future leaders. A talented public speaker, he was chosen to be a TEDYouth host for a day-long TED event for students. Beyond academics, Tafari founded a community based organization called GreenUP, which aims to clean up the Crown Heights neighborhood and promote healthier living.

Ina Kodra
Astoria—St. John’s Preparatory School

Ina received the science award, the spirit award, the service award, and the salutatorian award at her high school. She was also a member of the National Honor Society, vice president of the Hellenic culture club, president of the poetry club, and a co-founder of Writing Center Tutoring. In her senior year, Ina volunteered for the Go Project, a nonprofit dedicated to providing an education to underserved students. She aspires to study medicine and become a pediatric cardiologist.

Sama Mammadova
Brooklyn—Brooklyn College Academy

Sama received the Top of the Class Award, given to the student with the highest GPA, for three consecutive years. A talented writer, she has earned several prizes for her work, including the Best of Borough award for her memoir piece in the Random House Foundation Inc. Creative Writing Competition. Sama ran a creative writing workshop in her school and tutored many of her peers in multiple subjects. She also served as moderator in the 14th Annual United Nations International Student Conference on Human Rights. Sama hopes to earn a PhD in history and become a professor.

Kamara Swaby
Brooklyn—Brooklyn Technical High School

Kamara was one of eight students citywide to receive the New York Times Scholarship for her academic achievements. She also earned the Leadership Award from her school as well as a Human Service Certificate from the Association of Black Educators of New York. Kamara participated in Key Club, Science Olympiad, and the council for student activities, and she served as historian for the National Honor Society. She plans to earn a law degree and become a patent lawyer specializing in biology and biotechnology inven

The Harvard Club of New York Foundation
"A native New Yorker, I was born and raised on Long Island, where I completed my first nine years of schooling. For high school, I attended Marymount School in New York City, an independent all-girls secondary school, from which I graduated in June."
- Gillian Farrell '13