Class of 2019

Diego Alvarez

Diego Alvarez

  • Areas of Study: Finance
  • Hometown: Antiguo Cuscatlan, El Salvador

Diego is the president and lead-founder of the Shoeing International Movement, a program that incentivizes high school students to donate their used shoes to children in low-income Central American communities. Since its inception in 2012, Shoeing International has donated over 10,000 pairs of shoes to children and families in communities with scarce resources, and has engaged 800+ high school students from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. The movement’s efforts have been so successful that it garnered attention and donations from NGO World Vision.

In high school, Diego assisted in food supply logistics and distribution after floods in El Salvador, participated in several Habitat for Humanity home builds, and supported Young Life, an NGO teaching Christian values to low income families in El Salvador. Diego was a member of the National Honor Society and participated in Model UN for three years. In 2013 and 2014 Diego interned in Mackay Shields New York office in the High Yield Division.

"What drives me? The possibility that my actions might one day make a positive impact in thousands of lives and the slight chance that they already have. I feel blessed to have The Hesburgh-Yusko Scholars Program as a platform where I will have the opportunity to help diverse communities in a wide range of ways."

Diego spent his Social Justice summer doing micro-finance with SABMiller in his home country of El Salvador.

Kristin Andrejko

Kristin Andrejko

  • Areas of Study: Science-Business; Science, Technology, and Values
  • Hometown: Cary, NC

After being selected to represent her school at the Student Global Leadership Institute in Hawaii in 2014, Kristin affirmed her interest in international development. She is driven to improve global health outcomes throughout the world and is eager to use human-centered design work to address public health challenges. She spent her Social Justice summer with One Sun Health in HaMakuya, South Africa, collecting and analyzing data about the effectiveness of MAP, the Malaria Awareness Program. She worked alongside community health workers and collaborated with local health officials to educate residents about the transmission, symptoms, preventative measures and treatment of malaria.  At Notre Dame, she plans to continue her work studying the epidemiology of malaria in Dr. Achee’s entomology lab. 

Serving as student council president in high school led Kristin to pursue Student Government opportunities at Notre Dame. She currently represents her residence hall on Senate and was involved in FUEL her freshman year at Notre Dame. Additionally, Kristin serves as Vice President of “the Shirt” at Notre Dame, a student-led initiative that has raised 10 million dollars to support student groups and activities on campus. She also works with Undergraduate Admissions as both a member of the Reilly Visitation Program student team and a student admissions tour guide. 

Kristin was a competitive jump roper for ten years, and excelled at national and international jump rope competitions, placing third in the nation at the U.S. Jump Rope Grand National competition in 2014. She is the founder of the nation’s third collegiate jump rope team, and is incredibly excited to begin practices with ND Rec Sport’s newest student club, Jump Rope, in Fall 2016.

Bennett Auwaerter

Bennett Auwaerter

  • Areas of Study: Finance; English
  • Hometown: Lutherville, MD

A graduate of the Gilman School, inducted into the Cum Laude Society junior year, Ben’s extracurricular activities included serving as Yearbook editor-in-chief, peer writing tutor, Chess Club president, JV Tennis captain, Senior Retreat leader, and broadcast anchor for Gilman TV. As an Eagle Scout, Ben worked on many community improvement projects and taught tennis to disadvantaged children. An avid sports fan, Ben created statsports.net and interned with the Baltimore Orioles, writing for their magazine and social media websites.

With interests in domestic and global education, Ben hopes to use his time as a Hesburgh-Yusko scholar to research academic policies in differing countries with a focus on the role of technology. He also hopes to help improve learning environments for low-resourced students. He serves as an assistant teacher at the South Bend Center for the Homeless and volunteer tutor at the Robinson Community Learning Center. He also writes for the Notre Dame baseball team. For his Social Justice summer, he continued his work at the South Bend Center for the Homeless, where he served as an assistant teacher in the Montessori classroom and Adult Education volunteer.

Bryce Badura

Bryce Badura

  • Areas of Study: Computer Science
  • Hometown: Midlothian, VA

Bryce established the Dunkin’ Donuts Munchkins 5K Run, a race benefitting the ASK Childhood Cancer Foundation, during his freshman year of high school. As its President for the past four years, Bryce’s main focus was heightening the community’s awareness of childhood cancer. The event raised over $100,000 and was named one of “America’s Top 10 Food-Fueled Races.” Bryce also co-founded the Varsity Outreach Club, hosting monthly donation drives resulting in contributions of more than 4,000 gently used items including shoes, jeans, coats, sports supplies, etc. to organizations in need. Additionally, Bryce was active with NASA and the Virginia Space Grant Consortium, encouraging student engagement in the STEM field.

While at Notre Dame, he hopes to study Computer Science and use it to better connect communities around the world. As a Hesburgh-Yusko Scholar, he would like to research and develop uses for technology in underdeveloped regions of our world.

Bryce was appointed as the Director of Campus Technology in Student Government and will serve this term through April 2017, working to advance the technological resources available to students. For his Social Justice summer, Bryce spent time in Villa Allende, Argentina, working with schools to improve education and promote the presence of STEM education in the curriculum.

Braeden Benedict

Braeden Benedict

  • Areas of Study: Chemical and Bimolecular Engineering
  • Hometown: Rancho Palos Verdes, CA

Braeden Benedict, a 2015 U.S. Presidential Scholar, National Merit Scholar, and Valedictorian of high school, is passionate about scientific research and developing technology to positively impacts people’s lives. As a high school freshman, he won the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge for his invention of a low-cost impact indicator for concussion detection, was named “America’s Top Young Scientist,” exhibited at the White House Science Fair, and was included in Popular Science’s 2012 Ten High School Inventors. He studied concussions in youth for three years and won numerous awards at science fairs. He also volunteered at Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute, studying Sanfilippo syndrome, an orphan disease.

At Notre Dame, Braeden is studying Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering on a pre-med track and served as president of the First Year Engineering Council. As a member of the Notre Dame Men’s Rowing team, he has spent many hours training on the St. Joseph River and has competed in regattas across the country. He has also become involved in research, working under Dr. Paul Bohn to develop a paper analytical device for early detection of sepsis. He spent his Wilderness Leadership Experience backpacking and rock climbing in North Carolina and his Social Justice Summer volunteering with the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless Stout Street Health Center in Denver.

Astrid Brakstad

Astrid Brakstad

  • Areas of Study: Economics; Applied and Computational Mathematics and Statistics; Philosophy, Politics, and Economics
  • Hometown: Oslo, Norway

Engaged in youth politics since pre-high school, Astrid served as vice president for her local Youth Council and as a board member for the Central Youth Council of Oslo during her freshman year, where she worked with educational matters as well as projects regarding inequality among youth. During her junior and senior years Astrid attended UWC Red Cross Nordic, an affiliate of the United World College network, where she continued her engagement in education as Head of Communications for a student run NGO aiming to fund education in underprivileged areas. After graduation from high school, she worked for one year as an Investment Research Intern for Formuesforvaltning, the largest privately-owned wealth management firm in the Nordic area.

Astrid is pursuinga major in Economics, Applied and Computational Mathematics and Statistics and a minor in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics. She plans to utilize the opportunities provided to her through HYSP to develop her leadership capabilities and foster her passion for social justice.

She spent her Social Justce summer working with an impact investment fund that aims to expand access to solar panel energy units in rural off-grid areas of sub-Saharan Africa.

Sofia Carozza

Sofia Carozza

  • Areas of Study: Neuroscience and Behavior; Glynn Family Honors Program; Philosophy, Politics, and Economics
  • Hometown: South Bend, IN

In high school, Sofia volunteered as a peer tutor and served the homeless of South Bend through the Catholic Worker Movement. She participated in EuroChallenge, a competition at the Federal Reserve, and led Saint Joseph High School’s team to second place nationally. Sofia was an intern in the South Bend Mayor’s Office and worked as manager of a small local business. Involved in both the French and National Honor Societies, she participated in theater productions and was president of the French Club. A National Merit Scholarship recipient, Sofia was the salutatorian of her senior class.

During her junior year, she lived in Milan and studied at Istituto Sacro Cuore.

On campus, Sofia is a member of the Women's Boxing Club, the student religious group Communion and Liberation, and ND Votes, a non-partisan campaign for voter education and mobilization. She was an actor in Show Some Skin 2016: Who Matters, a student run production exploring identity and diversity on campus. Finally, Sofia is the treasurer of ND Students for Worker Justice. In the fall of 2016, Sofia will be embarking on a project at the Juvenile Justice Center under the direction of Dr. Nancy Michael.

Sofia spent her Wilderness Leadership Experience summer backpacking and rock climbing in the Blue Ridge Mountains, and her Social Justice summer in Paraguay working for Fundacion San Rafael, a community-based organization serving the marginalized of Asuncion, for which she received a Kellogg Instute Experiencing the World Fellowship.

Roberto Elosua Gomez

Roberto Elosua Gomez

  • Areas of Study: Finance; Statistics
  • Hometown: Monterrey, Mexico

Driven by a passion for community service, Beto dedicated much of his time throughout high school to local engagement. As president of the National Honor Society, Beto and his team team raised sufficient funds to build a library at a local public school, where he regularly tutored and engaged with children. Beto helped to build several homes in rural communities in Latin America as a volunteer with TECHO, “a non-profit led by youth volunteers…working in slums across Latin America with a focus on community development, the search for political advocacy, and the promotion of social action.” During the summer of 2013, Beto traveled to Kenya where he served as a teacher at a public school in Orinie, a rural town in Maasai Land. As a senior, Beto served as the CFO of Global Issues Network conference at his school, a gathering of approximately 300 people focused on addressing significant global issues.

Beto spent his Social Justice summer volunteering with Huellas que Trancienden, an organization that works to combat poverty by helping indigenous women in Chiapas, Mexico, use their talents for income.

Beto intends to pursue degrees in Finance and Statistics while at Notre Dame, and hopes to manage or own a business during his professional career. 

Catherine Etchart

Catherine Etchart

  • Areas of Study: Economics; Applied and Computational Mathematics and Statistics; Glynn Family Honors Program
  • Hometown: Helena, MT

While attending St. Paul's School as a Cook Scholar, Catherine was a Model United Nations chair, student admissions officer, dormitory prefect, and multi-sport athlete.  In addition, Catherine played the saxophone in the Honors Music Program, orchestra, and jazz ensemble.  Receiving the Sokoloff Prize for Compassion enabled Catherine to use the $1,000 grant to found Carnations and Connections, an organization connecting teens with retirement home residents.  Catherine also pursued her interest in law and policy by co-founding the Young Independents and interning with the Montana Supreme Court.

“I’ve always been passionate about empowering and enacting positive change in communities.  In order for governments to effectively and positively shape their communities, I believe we must first resolve the challenges in our current political structure, so that we may fully address needs for education, economic, and social reform. The HYSP will provide me with the tools to be a positive force for change.”

Catherine spent her Social Justice summer volunteering with TechnoServe in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Justin Garrard

Justin Garrard

  • Areas of Study: Computer Science; Hesburgh Program in Public Service
  • Hometown: Lebanon, IN

Justin is fascinated by technology and its ability to serve and protect people. The summer after his junior year of high school, Justin interned with the Office of Naval Research conducting experiments into methods for waveform analysis to address issues posed by large data analytics. During the summers of 2015 and 2016, he has further pursued his interest in large data analytics through civilian internships with the Department of Defense in the Baltimore/Washington, D.C. area. 

At Notre Dame, Justin plans to explore his passion for service through technology by majoring in Computer Science with a concentration in Cloud Computing and an informal emphasis on big data analytics. Influenced by his experience with the United States Senate Youth Program, Justin also plans to minor in the Hesburgh Program in Public Service.

As a member of the Notre Dame Community, Justin serves on the Student Advisory Board for Undergraduate Enrollment and Sophomore Class Council. He also served on the Freshmen Class Council and volunteered with the Aidan Project. In addition to interning with the Department of Defense, Justin will spend his Social Justice summer volunteering in Baltimore STEM education programs. He spent his Wilderness Leadership Experience backpacking and canoeing in the White Mountains in Maine and New Hampshire.

In addition to being a Hesburgh-Yusko Scholar, Justin is also a Lilly Endowment Scholar and a Coca-Cola Scholar. He was the 2015 National Winner of the Daughters of the American Revolution Good Citizenship Award.

Alexis Green

Alexis Green

  • Areas of Study: Anthropology; Pre-Health; International Development Studies
  • Hometown: Brownsburg, IN

As a founding officer and president of the Brownsburg History Club, Lexi was instrumental in raising enough money to construct a Veterans Memorial at the front of her high school and also headed the planning of the John Crone Memorial 5K her junior and senior years to raise money for two deserving organizations that aid local veterans. Lexi is passionate about fostering broader access to quality, affordable healthcare, and in high school she worked to raise money for a local children’s hospital through the establishment of the Riley Dance Marathon. She served as the Student Government speaker of the house and National Honor Society philanthropy/fundraising chair, and she was thrilled to spend the summer before her senior year living with a host family in Germany to improve her German language skills and be wholly immersed in the culture.

At Notre Dame, Lexi is studying Anthropology/Pre-health and intends to become a physician while working on a broad scale toward more equitable and sustainable health systems. Lexi spent her Social Justice summer in Belize researching barriers to care for HIV/AIDS patients with the Eck Institute for Global Health and reporting the findings to a Belizean community health organization to guide future interventions. 

During the school year, Lexi is involved in NDiscovery, is the director of communications for GlobeMed, conducts research in an infectious and vector-borne disease lab, and enjoys volunteering at St. Joseph Regional Medical Center.

John Grogan

John Grogan

  • Areas of Study: Political Science; Philosophy
  • Hometown: Philadelphia, PA

Jack was president of his school's speech and debate team, competing nationally against many of the finest policy debate teams in the United States. He and his debate partner were two-time Pennsylvania state champions and attained a third place overall ranking in the country. Jack was an enthusiastic trombone and piano player in his high school jazz and pep bands. An active member of his parish, Jack worked as a sacristan throughout high school and served on the Parish Pastoral Council for three years. Jack served as a La Salle College High School representative at the Lasallian Youth Gathering in Brisbane, Australia, last summer.

During his freshman year at Notre Dame Jack was involved in local politics as an intern for the Pete Buttigieg for Mayor campaign and the Lynn Coleman for Congress campaign. He also served as a volunteer at the Robinson Community Learning Center. For his Social Justice summer Jack worked as an intern for Catholic Charities USA in their refugee resettlement division in Camden, NJ, and Washington, D.C. 

Najmeddine Harrabi

Najmeddine Harrabi

  • Areas of Study: Economics
  • Hometown: Sfax, Tunisia

Najmeddine, recipient of the "Francis Deng Young African Thinker Award” at ALA, was invited to participate in the 2012 Youth Leadership Program, a conference that selects young leaders from Libya, Egypt and Tunisia. He was actively involved with the Access Leadership Program, the North African Model United Nations, the English Access Micro-scholarship Program, and the Young Arab Voices. Following the Tunisian revolution, Najmeddine founded WeYouth in 2015, an organization “committed to empowering the Youth sector’s participation in decision making, leadership education, and social and civic engagement." WeYouth implemented several projects and initiatives in collaboration with prominent NGOs and institutions such as UNDP, ActionAid, and MEPI. In his first year at ALA, he founded a student enterprise focused on improving education through the use of affordable technology. Najmeddine also served as the Chief Marketing Officer for Sanyu Productions, ALA’s student-run media production initiative. He attended the DOHA goals conference in Qatar and interned for Coca Cola in South Africa where he executed a successful marketing campaign.

Najmeddine spent his Social Justice summer volunteering for Al-Jil in Tunis, Tunisia.

Saskia Hennecke

Saskia Hennecke

  • Areas of Study: Economics; Peace Studies; Africana Studies
  • Hometown: Tampa, FL

After a 2013 service trip to Ghana, Saskia was inspired to help Ghanaian students have more access to technology in education. She began by launching a laptop drive to collect used laptops. With the help of Citrix Systems and faculty at a local Ghanaian school, she provided more than 800 local children with reliable access to technology.

A Cum Laude scholar and University of Rochester Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony Award winner, Saskia believes that every good act, big or small, can change lives. As well as serving as president of the Happy Feet Club, which supports the American Cancer Society’s year-round initiatives, Saskia started the Acts of Kindness (AOK) Club, which brings students together to perform random acts of kindness throughout her hometown in Tampa.

Saskia is majoring in Economics, with minors in Peace Studies and Africana Studies. She is the tech secretary for KiND Club, and she volunteers for JIFFI, a non-profit which provides low interest rate loans for the impoverished South Bend community.

She spent her Social Justice summer in Kigali, Rwanda, volunteering for the Akilah Institute for Women.

Meredith

Meredith "Mary Grace" Henry

  • Areas of Study: Program of Liberal Studies; Film, Television, and Theatre
  • Hometown: Harrison, NY

Mary Grace Henry is the Founder of Reverse The Course, a social entrepreneurship enterprise dedicated to the education of marginalized, at-risk girls living in extreme poverty. To date, Reverse The Course has sold more than 15,000 hair accessories and donated $120,000 in educational support for girls primarily from Kenya and Uganda. She was the 2013 Kids Who Give winner and 2014 World of Children Award Youth Honoree.

Mary Grace served as co-captain of her high school squash team for two years and, as a senior, was co-director of the creative filmmaking class. Her films have been accepted in national and international festivals, winning more than 20 jury selection honors. Her documentary, Tumaini, will be released in May. At Notre Dame, she plans to major in the Program of Liberal Studies.

For her Social Justice summer, Mary Grace worked with the Network For Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) in Los Angeles, California. NFTE is an organization that provides entrepreneurial programming to students from low-income communities. By encouraging innovative thinking, strengthening public speaking skills, developing an analytical mindset, promoting creative problem solving, and instilling confidence, NFTE serves more than 600,000 students, nationally and internationally, empowering the them to become agents of change.  

Audrey Immonen

Audrey Immonen

  • Areas of Study: Environmental Science; Glynn Family Honors Program
  • Hometown: Wexford, PA

Audrey, a National Merit Finalist and AP Scholar with honor, cultivated a love for the environment by serving with the Student Conservation Association to build trails in Alaska’s Denali National Park and on the Appalachian Trail. Audrey was a varsity athlete in track and cross country. She spent her Wilderness Expedition with Outward Bound in the Sierra Nevadas in California. 

At Notre Dame, Audrey is a co-director of Outdoor Events for GreeND and the spirituality commissioner for her dorm. She is also involved in Fossil Free ND, the fossil fuel divestment movement. For her Social Justice summer, she researched freshwater pollution issues (particularly anthropogenic micro plastics) in the local St. Joseph's River and around the Great Lakes with a Notre Dame biology professor.

“I'm thrilled to be a part of a community that moves the world, particularly because my interest in the environment has such a global scope. The Hesburgh-Yusko Scholars program is a fantastic way for young leaders like me to develop our ideas and to become truly transformational leaders.”

Delaney Lenaghan

Delaney Lenaghan

  • Areas of Study: Pre-Health Studies; Psychology
  • Hometown: Massapequa, NY

Delaney, an Intel Science semi-finalist, served as an intern for two summers in a biomedical laboratory where she engaged in research related to metabolic disorders.  She was actively involved with Operation Smile and was selected to serve as a student volunteer on a medical mission in Guatemala.  Delaney was a member of the league champion Varsity Lacrosse team and served as president of the Leadership Team at her high school.  She was also an active member of several clubs and Honor Societies as well as an AP Scholar with Distinction.

At Notre Dame, she intends on studying Psychology and Pre-Health.  She is on the board of the Notre Dame Make-A-Wish club and is a commissioner for her hall council.  She also tutors at the Robinson Community Learning Center and is involved in many student organizations.

For her Wilderness Leadership summer, Delaney backpacked through the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California. She spent her Social Justice summer conducting research on malaria prevention efforts in Belize through the Eck Institute for Global Health in partnership with the Ministry of Health. Additionally while in Belize, Delaney engaged in various service projects centered on global health issues. 

Yutong Liu

Yutong Liu

  • Areas of Study: Biological Sciences
  • Hometown: Beijing, China

In high school, Yutong was the co-founder of the English Debate Club of his high school. During the summer of 2013, he interned at Roswell Park Cancer Center in Buffalo, NY. The following year, Yutong researched different testing methods for fatty acids in intestinal tissues at China Agriculture University. He joined the Network Poverty Alleviation Program during the summer of his junior year, and conducted a field investigation of the status quo in Zhangwu, a county in the Liaoning province of China. Entering Notre Dame, Yutong was selected as the university’s 2015 Li Ka Shing Foundation Greater China Scholar. 

Yutong is interested in promoting equal access to health care on a global scale through a biomedical approach. At Notre Dame, he continues to explore the field of global health. Working with Professor Lacey Ahern at the Eck Institute of Global Health, Yutong studied the application of mobile phones in global health. In the summer of 2016, he spent 9 weeks in Uganda working with the Palliative Care Association of Uganda in the establishment and evaluation of a mobile phone surveillance system for palliative care facilities.

Tyrel  London

Tyrel London

  • Areas of Study: American Studies; Film, Television, and Theatre
  • Hometown: Lakeside, AZ

Tyrel, an alumnus of The School for Ethics and Global Leadership, founded The Full and Focused Project in 2013, a nonprofit organization helping with food security. His senior year, he was Blue Ridge High School’s student body vice president, the Arizona Interscholastic Association's Student of the Year, a varsity letterman in track and field, and one of two Arizona delegates to the United States Senate Youth Program. At Notre Dame, Tyrel has focused on theatre, with roles including The Producer in Six Characters in Search of an Author (Fall 2014), Smirnov in The Bear, Andrey in Afterplay, and Mr. Bennet in Pride and Prejudice. (Spring 2016).  

Tyrel spent his Summer Wilderness experience mountaineering in Colorado's Gore Mountain Range and his Social Justice summer volunteering for the Mamelodi Initiative outside of Pretoria, South Africa.

 

Winnie Mang'eni

Winnie Mang'eni

  • Areas of Study: Business
  • Hometown: Mombassa, Kenya

As the CEO of the second Teen Entrepreneurship Summit (TES 2014), Winnie brought 45 students from all over Kenya to participate in a leadership camp, all while interning full-time with Equity Bank in their Mentorship Program. As the CEO of the Junior Achievement Company Program (JA 2013), a not-for-profit that runs school-based enterprise clubs as a means of providing children with opportunities to develop critical professional skills, she received the Best CEO Award for profit maximization with 200 shareholders. Winnie served as a Peer Counselor (PC) at the African Leadership Academy for the 2014-2015 school year. In this role, Winnie acted as a mentor and big sister to new students, helping them with their transition to ALA. She was actively involved in the International Relations Council and participated in a Model United Nations conference in Doha, Qatar. She was an integral member in the planning of ALA’s flagship Model African Union conference and served as the Director of Logistics for the 2015 conference.

Winnie is a feminist passionate about entrepreneurship. During her freshman year, she won a Center for Undergraduate Scholarly Engagement (CUSE) grant to study the effects of micro-finance on women in Guatemala. She spent her Social Justice summer working on a pig farm that she founded in Kenya, which helps women become financially stable by providing them with loans to purchase pigs.

Debora Mulokozi

Debora Mulokozi

  • Areas of Study: Economics; International Development
  • Hometown: Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Debora Paul, a graduate of the African Leadership Academy (ALA) in Johannesburg, South Africa, was a member of the African Women Entrepreneurs Program (Tanzania Chapter) and served as the CEO of Duka Bora. Duka Bora, literally meaning “Best Shop,” is an ALA student run for-profit food service enterprise. While at ALA, Debora launched Mambo Africa, a retail venture through which she sold Tanzanian attire to the students of the Academy. Debora is passionate about using entrepreneurship to provide sustainable education skills to underprivileged adults and children in Tanzania. She founded the Debora Paul Foundation, an organization that aims to support both academic and skills-training courses for underprivileged children and adults in Tanzania.  

Debora spent her Social Justice summer volunteering with CIYOTA (COBURWAS International Youth Organization to Transform Africa) in Kampala, Uganda, which serves refugees from Congo, Burundi, Rwanda and Sudan. As a volunteer, Debora helped with capacity building and managing the projects started in the camps at Kyangwali, Chaka, Ajumani and Kiryandongo. At the end of the summer, Debora ran a Teen a Entrepreneurship Camp for high schoolers in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

Maria Palazzolo

Maria Palazzolo

  • Areas of Study: Finance; Public Policy
  • Hometown: Springfield, IL

As a senior in high school, Maria served as National Honor Society president and German Club vice president. In addition to these activities, she found her true passion in Key Club International, the largest teen-led service organization in the world, and served as the 2014-15 Key Club International president. As president, Maria led an international council of forty teenage leaders and, together, they motivated thousands of Key Clubbers to reach higher membership numbers, raise more than $1.5 million for the Eliminate Project, and provide millions of service hours to communities around the world. During her term, she traveled across the country to meet with Key Club members, non-profit leaders, and federal government officials, and also traveled to Cambodia to witness the results of Key Club’s fundraising efforts for the Eliminate Project.

“My trip to Cambodia inspired me to dedicate the rest of my life to giving back to those who need help the most. The Hesburgh-Yusko Scholars Program embodies this idea and gives me the tools to achieve my goals and vision.”

Maria spent her Social Justice summer serving as a volunteer for Illinois' 18th Congressional District in Washington, D.C. During this experience, Maria helped in the bill writing process and learned more about the specific education reforms necessary to ensure that every child receives an adequate education in America. 

Kathleen Ryan

Kathleen Ryan

  • Areas of Study: Economics; English
  • Hometown: Hingham, MA

In the summer of 2014, Kathleen co-founded Justice Theatre Company and produced the adaption of the memoir Shakespeare Behind Bars, donating proceeds to the Prison Book Program in Quincy, MA. As director of communications and assistant producer, Kathleen used theatre as a medium for social justice, helping to raise awareness for the need of education in prison. Her involvement inspired her high school senior thesis examining the lack of education in prison. During her freshman year, Kathleen founded the Chapstick Drive to collect lip balm for the Boston-area homeless. She choreographed her high school’s spring musicals and school fundraiser Dancing with the Fontbonne Stars. As a member of Select Chorus and Jazz Choir, Kathleen was a soloist on the groups’ 2015 CD and performed at the NCEA convention.

Kathleen spent her Wilderness Leadership summer backpacking in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. For her Social Justice summer, Kathleen interned at Reading for Life in South Bend, IN. Through her internship, she worked with juveniles in the Juvenile Justice Center in reading groups while observing and learning about the prison system. 

Meredith Soward

Meredith Soward

  • Areas of Study: Political Science; Sustainability; Hesburgh Program in Public Service
  • Hometown: Los Altos, CA

Meredith’s interest in the environment began in high school, when she successfully petitioned her town’s city council to implement a ban on plastic bags. Over four years, she led environmental education activities including Zero Waste on Campus, Earth Week, and Water Week. As a junior, she started a regional environmental conference, Students for Green High Schools, to help other high schoolers implement environmental changes at their schools. Meredith served as vice president of Gift of Vision, an organization that funded 27 eye surgeries in India within two years. After founding STEM Inspire, she planned STEM workshops, speakers, and camps to get low-income students excited about pursuing careers in math and science. She swam competitively for 10 years, qualifying for regional competitions and serving as team captain. Meredith was a three-year member of her school’s audition-only theatre troupe. Her other activities include One Dollar for Life, Free the Children, babysitting, lifeguarding, and teaching swim lessons.

Meredith spent her Wilderness Leadership experience rafting and rock climbing in Oregon. Durimg her freshman year, she participated in GreeND, Fossil Free ND, and the Not-So-Royal Shakespeare Club. She acted as Lysimachus in Pericles and as Juliet in an adapted version of Romeo and Juliet, and will be serving as the club's treasurer in the fall. Meredith spent her Social Justice summer working on a sustainable farm and teaching theatre outside of Kampala, Uganda.

Justine Wang

Justine Wang

  • Areas of Study: Economics
  • Hometown: Andover, MA

During high school, Justine served as the President of the Non Sibi Society and was a copy editor for The Phillipian, Phillips Academy’s weekly student-run newspaper. She is heavily involved in many social justice and community service initiatives and is a dedicated ballet, jazz, and modern dancer. A huge advocate of feminism, Justine was also a mentor for younger students as a part of the Girls Leadership Project. In her free time, Justine enjoys raising awareness and fundraising for children’s education rights through We Are The World Kids, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization which she founded in 2010 and now serves as the Executive Director. Her other interests are closely tied with social entrepreneurship and international development work and she is very interested in filmmaking, photography, traveling, and learning new languages.

Throughout her first year at Notre Dame, Justine was involved with The Observer as a news reporter, Student International Business Council, Freshman Class Council in Student Government, and the Center for Social Concerns. During fall semester 2016, she will be studying in Washington, D.C., through Notre Dame's Washington Program.

Justine spent two weeks rafting on the Deschutes River and mountaineering the Pacific Crest Trail in Oregon during her Willderness Leadership summer. She spent her Social Justice summer law clerking for the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles. As a recipient of a Summer Language Abroad grant from the CSLC, she also studied the French language at the Institut de Touraine in Tours, France.

Benjamin Wdowik

Benjamin Wdowik

  • Areas of Study: Electrical Engineering
  • Hometown: Fort Collins, CO

At the age of fourteen, Ben was running an entire martial arts program for both adults and children, leading instruction in fitness, self-care, confidence, and maturity development, as well as Japanese culture, history, and tradition. He was engaged in his local homeless community by serving meals at a local homeless shelter and organizing a coffeehouse event to fundraise for a mission trip to work with the homeless in Denver. He has studied piano, voice, and guitar for many years, organized and participated in numerous benefit concerts, and has been selected to perform theatrical pieces at both state and international thespian festivals. He was Vice President of his high school Drama Club, a member of the National Honor Society, a youth group peer leader, and co-captain of his high school’s varsity tennis team.

For the past three years, Ben has been actively involved in Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA), summer leadership programs that seek to ignite self-confidence, develop communication skills, and encourage social engagement and service in young students. In collaboration with a non-profit organization called Empowering Opportunities (EO) and the Rotary Clubs of Fort Collins, Ben  spearheaded and ran an adapted version of RYLA for orphans in Nepal during his Social Justice summer, as well as volunteered with EO in several rural Nepali schools. 

At Notre Dame, Ben is studying Electrical Engineering. He works as a lab assistant in the Nanofabrication Facility clean room, is a STEM ambassador for Sorin College, and performed in Notre Dame’s opera. He is a midshipman in Notre Dame’s Naval ROTC program, and intends to commission as a Naval officer upon graduation.