Meet 11 Impressive First-Year Students as They Join UMD
Photo by Stephanie S. Cordle
The University of Maryland campus is back up to speed this fall as a hub of learning, and among the thousands of new Terps are artists and programmers, musicians and athletes, activists and student leaders.
Read on to meet 11 impressive members of the first-year class who’ll be adding their accomplishments to the dynamic UMD community this unique fall semester:
In between being named to the College Board National Recognition Programs for Hispanic and African American students, earning an honorable mention at the Fairfax County, Va., regional science fair and working as vice president of National Honor Society, Alaya Chubb still found time to volunteer at Fairfax Medical Center. “I learned during my time there that empathy can go a long way,” she said. The bioengineering major also interned at the George Washington University D.C. Health and Academic Prep Program, where she and a team of peers proposed a pilot program to provide medical assistance to people impacted by homelessness amid COVID-19. At UMD, Chubb is eager to learn more about regenerative medicine, a health care frontier that could one day regrow or replace body tissues, and she eventually hopes to pursue dental school.
Since 2015, Nada Fadul has been seeking to create a better future for women living under oppressive governments. Combining her passion for health care, investigative journalism and helping those in need, she and her two sisters founded Girls4Girls, a Maryland-based nonprofit that aims to educate and help women worldwide improve their lives. “Now more than ever, having compassion for humanity is a huge lesson in life we all need,” she said. “I want to continue to help support those who can’t for themselves.” Fadul, from Bethesda, Md., will continue her work with the nonprofit while studying biological sciences at Maryland—a fitting major for the Congress of Future Medical Leaders Award of Excellence honoree. The well-rounded student also brings a business background to UMD: She was president of her high school’s female investors club.
An active member of Girls Who Code, a high school club to hone HTML and Java skills, Manuela Fantcho came to UMD already well-equipped to start her computer science studies. On top of that, the Burtonsville, Md., native won school and state scholar-athlete awards, Gold and Silver Keys in photography in the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, and the Alpha Phi Alpha Black Youth W.E.B. DuBois Academic Achievement Award—a broad-ranging resume that itself warranted yet another honor, the Paul Robeson Versatility Award. Fantcho plans to continue using both her leadership and computing skills at UMD, where she will work toward a job at an employer like Google, Amazon or the Department of Defense. “I’m interested in exploring for a future career in cybersecurity or software engineering,” she said. “I’m excited to see what I learn in my classes.”
When he wasn’t on the basketball court, Dilan Gangar spent many afternoons in high school working with the MESA (Math, Engineering, Science Achievement) team, where he helped create a navigational system for the blind with his peers. “We were given the challenge to solve any problem, and we wanted ... to help people who are normally (underserved) in our country,” said Gangar, a bioengineering major. In his spare time, the Montgomery County, Md. native volunteered with the Special Olympics, where he used his love for basketball to empower children to reach their goals, and he earned the Seal of Biliteracy in Spanish upon graduation.
For activist Madison Green, a shooting involves more than just pulling a trigger, and gun violence prevention goes beyond marching and lobbying. During her senior year of high school, the Prince George’s County native founded the Maryland Strong Project, which strives to address poverty, drug abuse and other issues that might lead to a shooting. “How can we get to the root causes of so many of the things we see on the news every day?” she said. To give at-risk youth access to healthy food, she and her peers helped local elementary schools start school gardens. Green, who will study environmental science and community health at UMD, also advocates for environmental justice and immigrants’ rights through the organization CASA Maryland, and she provides virtual interpretation services to immigration attorneys with language barriers through the North Texas Human Rights Initiative. “I’m very excited about finding people, whether through clubs or other connections, who are willing to do that work with me,” she said.
Inspired by UMD’s Technica—an annual student-hosted hackathon at UMD for women and nonbinary people—Daria Holoman and two classmates created Brook Codes, a hackathon catering to middle and high school students. “We knew that UMD had Technica, and one day during our sophomore year we thought, ‘What if we made our own?’” she said. The Silver Spring, Md., native, who is studying mechanical engineering, has also already racked up her fair share of accomplishments in that field, including winning a gold medal in the NAACP Academic, Cultural, Technological, and Scientific Olympics and earning a summer internship in Johns Hopkins University’s Research and Engineering Apprenticeship Program.
One might say that Aditya Krishnan marches to the beat of his own drum—a mridangam, to be exact. Krishnan is among the best at playing the Indian instrument, taking the podium at regional and national music competitions. But besides his percussion prowess, the Virginian, who plans to pursue a career in national security and intelligence, nailed down an internship with the CIA by the summer of his senior year, working with analysts to help mitigate counterterrorism in Nigeria. He’ll look to build on that experience at UMD. “I’m excited to be working with students who are trying to help each other get to where we want to be,” he said, “as well as all of the opportunities that are available since we are so close to D.C.”
With Hurricane Ida wreaking havoc in the U.S. last week, Kirsten Lyons’ work teaching storm preparedness is especially relevant. In the wake of 2017’s Hurricane Maria, the Potomac, Md., native started leading bilingual prep classes for children at the San Juan Community Library in Puerto Rico. One tool she created—a coloring book complete with illustrations of people boarding up their windows and stocking up on food, water and flashlights—has since been shared as a resource with the American Red Cross. “When researching hurricane preparedness, I learned that most resources available were for an adult audience,” said Lyons, now a public health science major and member of the CIVICUS living-learning program. “The coloring book is a great ice-breaker to approach the topic in a safe way.” Amid COVID-19, she shifted the classes online, teaching via Zoom across 12 hurricane-prone states. The efforts earned her a presidential letter of recognition, as well as nods from U.S. Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan and U.S. Sen. Christopher Van Hollen of Maryland.
A first-generation student originally from Nigeria, Comfort Oshagbemi has held numerous volunteer leadership positions focusing on culture, social justice and academic achievement, including president of the African Student Association and of the Black Student Union at her high school in Montgomery County, Md. She also served as vice president of the Minority Scholars Program, the Social Awareness Group and Sisters in Success. “I’ve always liked the ‘story of self.’” said Oshagbehmi. “How can you empower yourself and others’ stories?” At UMD, she plans to study international relations and history, and is eager to learn the stories of the broad range of people she’ll meet.
At age 8, Alexis Savage may not have watched many horror movies, but she appeared in one. An actress and dancer most of her life, training in her family's dance studio and in New York City, she appeared in 2011’s “Lovely Molly” and is on its DVD cover, and she’s been signed with a talent agency since 2012. After losing a childhood friend she met through dance to cancer, Savage has been actively involved in Curefest, an annual festival held in Washington D.C. She will continue following her passion for dance in college as a member of the Maryland Dance Team, and she’ll work toward a degree in business in hopes of one day becoming an entrepreneur.
As founder of a program that links students to local nonprofits in need of volunteers, Michael Zhao has connected 220 high schoolers from Howard County’s public and private schools, supporting community needs while helping students fulfill their community service requirements. He got the idea for the group, called VolunTeens, after participating in the four-month Leadership U. program, which exposes high school students to county government and business. Now, as he studies business at UMD, Zhao will work as a VolunTeens board member, with the goal of showing others the importance of valuing respect and kindness. “I can’t wait to learn from a plethora of dedicated professors and a unique student community,” he said.
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