Meet the 2018 TAAP Scholars

Cristina Acosta Navarro ’22
Sacramento, CA
Political Science

Cristina is a first-generation undocumented student aiming to become an immigration lawyer. Her internship at a major civil rights organization introduced her to her passions in both public policy and law. This Sacramento native hopes to work towards making higher education accessible for undocumented students and low-income families.

Farah Ali ’20
Glendale, CA
Political Science

Growing up in a Bangladeshi Muslim household with her parents and two younger siblings in Glendale, California, Farah has created strong ties and bonds with her community. The importance of religion and sense of community that plays a part in her household, pushes her towards her academic and career goals.

Ahmad Ali-Ahmad ’20
Cupertino, CA

Ahmad Ali was born in Boston and raised in Cupertino, California. The product of community food banks and federal assistance programs, he developed a passion for public service at a young age, when he witnessed the power of public institutions to empower him.

Erick Alvarez ’22
Oakland, CA
Political Science

Erick Alvarez was born in Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, but was raised in East Oakland, California. He is the first in his family to attend college, and he wishes to venture into politics or journalism and media to help people with similar struggles both internationally and locally.

Emma Bell ’20
Santa Maria, CA

As Emma grew up on the central coast, she began to notice that she wasn’t excelling in class like her peers were. After being withdrawn from high school, and diagnosed with a learning disability, Emma began to find her motivation and love for activism and public health.

Harmony Bulloch ’20
Petaluma, CA
Political Science

Harmony is a transfer student from Santa Rosa Junior College. Throughout her time there and beyond, she has taken on many leadership roles, specifically in the realms of debate and political clubs. As a Cal student she hopes to study political science.

Richie Chu ’20
Huntington Beach, CA
Molecular and Cell Biology: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Richie Chu is a second-generation Asian American student from Southern California. After realizing his own potential and discovering his passion for the sciences, Richie is now determined to give back to the world through education and research.

Wendy Colin ’22
South Whittier, CA
Civil and Environmental Engineering

Wendy Colin is a first-generation college student from South Whittier, California who plans to major in civil and environmental engineering. Growing up in an immigrant family presented her with obstacles and hardships, all of which helped her develop the resilience and tenacity that have induced her success and accomplishments.

Leslie Cruz-Cabrera ’22
Bell, CA

Growing up in a low income community didn’t prevent Leslie Cruz-Cabrera from becoming the admirable student she is. She has always loved to help others and volunteers around her community. Losing her father to a chronic illness was difficult, but it has inspired her to help other families like hers.

Amirardavan Ebtehadj Shirazi ’22
Tehran, Iran
Political Science

Amir Ebtehadj was born in Tehran, Iran but raised in Houston and Los Angeles. While attending high school, Amir gained a passion for educational equity and empowering students. He plans on majoring in global studies and hopes to continue his passion for civic organizations and local government at Cal.

Wafaa Elshawarbi ’20
Fremont, CA
Political Science

Wafaa Elshawarbi is an immigrant, a first-generation student, and a leader in her community. Wafaa has grown to know the experience of familial and financial hardship, and was able to put that experience into the leadership positions that she has taken in her community to help others like herself.

Daniela Estrada Flores ’22
Upper Lake, CA
Chicano/Latino Studies

Daniela may be from a small school, but she has never let the lack of opportunities define what she is capable of achieving.

Ana Paulina Gutierrez ’22
Castro Valley, CA

Born and raised in Guadalajara, Mexico, Pau Gutierrez moved to the Bay Area in 2016 to pursue her dream of getting a top-notch higher education. She hopes to double major in economics and political science to gain the right tools to promote development in third-world countries.

Yadira Hernandez-Figueroa ’22
Merced, CA
Political Science

Yadira Hernandez-Figueroa grew up in Merced, California and has greatly contributed to her community. She has given more than 400 hours of community service. She wants to major in political science and represent her Latinx community. Yadira is ready to begin her studies at Cal and continue to grow as an individual.

Justin Hogenauer ’22
Cerritos, CA
Society and Environment

Justin Hogenauer is a graduate of Whitney High School in Cerritos. He has studied endangered rhinos in South Africa, built drought-tolerant gardens and compost systems with Whitney’s Eco Club, and co-founded Eco-Education, a student-run science education program for elementary students. He interned at Boeing and is a Milken Scholar.

Wun-Yue (Emily) Hou ’22
Taipei, Taiwan
Public Health

Emily Hou was born in Taiwan and moved to Berkeley at the age of 13. She has been an educator in the Public Health Department in the city of Berkeley since 2013 and she is excited to make more positive impact on her community while pursuing a degree in public health.

Qasim Iqbal ’20
Newark, CA
Computer Science

Qasim Iqbal came from a low-income household. Open educational resources have tremendously supplemented his educational journey, in and out of college. He has realized this is just one of many ways technology can improve people’s lives and has been inspired, as a CS major, to find more.

Ismail Javed ’20
Sacramento, CA
Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences

Ismail Javed is a proud Muslim-American transfer student from Sacramento. While attending American River College, he held two programming occupations, professionally tutored math, and volunteered for his local mosque. He hopes to gain the experience necessary to launch his career in software engineering and eventually start a nonprofit tutoring service.

Kirnvir Kaur ’22
Bakersfield, CA
Cell and Developmental Biology

Kirnvir Kaur attended a school with liberal beliefs and came home to the conservative mindset of the Indian society, which led her to question her identity and values that define her. The struggle to find her identity led her to discover the person she is today.

Azeen Keihani ’22
Sacramento, CA
Molecular and Cell Biology: Neurobiology

Azeen Keihani is an outspoken, passionate, intended neurobiology major from Sacramento, California with a heart for animals, music, science, and her family and friends. She dreams of becoming a physician, stemming from her father’s lifelong disability due to multiple sclerosis, and cannot wait to be a Golden Bear.

Andrew Kim ’20
Los Angeles, CA

Andrew Soohwan Kim was born and raised in California. He is a nineteen-year-old incoming transfer student majoring in history (with a regional concentration on East Asia). He is also a proud Korean-American Christian, active in the immigrant community and interested in the intersections among history, writing, and languages.

Hyo Hun Kim ’20
Busan, South Korea

Hyo Hun is a first-generation, immigrant transfer student from Chabot College. He hopes to obtain his bachelor’s degree in sociology and ethnic studies. He firmly believes in fighting to preserve the stories of minorities and wishes to make his mama proud.

Gracianne Kirsch ’22
Ukiah, CA

Gracianne Kirsch was raised between a Redwood Valley homestead and a Ukiah subsidized home with eight siblings. Although life has delivered Gracianne with many hardships and challenges, her struggles have amounted to her strength, perseverance, compassion, and unique perspective that she looks forward to bringing to Berkeley.

Maggie Li ’20
El Cerrito, CA
Comparative Literature

Maggie is a first-generation college student. She’s currently a junior majoring in Comparative Literature. She’s interested in pursuing a career in higher education. She’s passionate about helping students navigate the college admissions process and providing them with the guidance to succeed in college. Maggie also enjoys learning about different cultures and languages.

David Lin ’20
Sacramento, CA
Computer Science

David was born in Manhattan, New York but has lived in numerous cities on both coasts. He enjoys exploring various philosophies to further expand his perspective on the world and is a strong believer in striving to experience new opportunities. Discipline and productivity are focal points in his life.

Maria Magdaleno ’22
Santa Ana, CA
Molecular Environmental Biology

Maria is pursuing a degree in molecular environmental biology. She was born in Mexico but migrated to the United States, where she grew up in Santa Ana, California. She intends to follow premed requirements in order to pursue a medical degree.

Ayla Martinez ’22
Los Angeles, CA
Political Science

Ayla Martinez is a leader from South Central Los Angeles. She has explored the topic of human rights through programs at Smith College, Duke University, and Oxford University in England. Her passion is social justice, and she mentors her community on mental and physical health as well as the importance of rights and education.

Maria Medina ’22
Fontana, CA
Political Science

Maria F. Medina is a passionate, thriving Latina from Fontana, California whose resilience and optimism push her to continue empower those she meets. She is beyond passionate about community outreach and leadership opportunities for youth. Throughout the years, Maria has been heavily involved in leadership, community service, and networking.

Grace Miller ’22
Fresno, CA

Grace is a driven young woman who is inspired by her family and community to promote activism and equality. She believes in the importance of non-profit work, political action, and compassion for all people. Grace was born in Fresno, California, and she attended school in Sanger.

Rayyan Misherghi ’22
Fremont, CA
Global Studies

Rayyan is a Muslim and a first-generation Libyan-American. She is passionate about alleviating international economic disparity, especially because she witnessed tremendous social unrest and economic injustice living in North Africa. She hopes to pursue a double major in economics and global studies at UC Berkeley.

Hossein Moein Taghavi ’20
San Mateo, CA
Integrative Biology

Hossein was born in Iran and moved to the United States with his family at the age of fourteen. His intended major is integrative biology. Hossein loves doing research in biology, and he is a sustainability activist. His other interests are playing tennis, biking, hiking, reading, and programming.

Manuel Morales ’22
Costa Mesa, CA
Interdisciplinary Studies

Manuel Morales was born in extravagant Newport Beach, but his values come from a humble town across the border. His Mexican parents stressed the importance of education, community, and family. The mark he will leave on Berkeley, he hopes, will illuminate the path for future generations.

Cy (Nancy) Nguyen ’20
Orange County, CA
English, Sociology

Cy Nguyen hails from Southern California, and is a first-generation college student. She faced homelessness and worked three different part-time jobs to support her family. Despite this, she became a leader and graduated community college with two degrees. She is proud to be a Golden Bear and is excited to start Cal!

Nhut Nguyen ’20
Los Angeles, CA
Applied Mathematics

Nhut Nguyen is a first-generation, Asian-American college student. He enjoys doing volunteer service and spending time sightseeing. In August, Nhut will be a junior at University of California, Berkeley, majoring in mathematics. Upon completion of his undergraduate studies, he intends to apply to graduate school to further his knowledge.

Bryanna Paz ’22
Paramount, CA

Bryanna Paz is a Salvadoran-American student from Paramount, California. She plans to pursue an English major, for she believes that literature is crucial to self-expression. After her time at Cal, Bryanna hopes to establish her own multimedia magazine dedicated to social activism and giving marginalized communities a voice.

Gabriela Perez ’22
San Diego, CA
Cell and Developmental Biology

Gaby is a first-generation college student from San Ysidro, California who plans to graduate from Cal with a major in cell and developmental biology. She is dedicated to becoming an inspiration to low-income students by showing that success is always achievable with the correct mindset.

Kevin Pham ’22
Hesperia, CA
Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Kevin Pham is from Hesperia, California. His favorite activities include playing trading card games and board games, watching anime, and playing indoor soccer. His intended major is computer science, and he hopes to fuel his academic curiosity and form new friendships at Cal!

Jorge Rodriguez-Mota ’22
Merced, CA
Molecular and Cell Biology: Immunology and Pathogenesis

Jorge Rodriguez-Mota is from Merced, California and will be majoring in molecular and cell biology. He and his family have been faced with adversity for years since his father’s deportation. He hopes his education at Cal, and education thereafter, begins a cycle of prosperity for his family and future generations.

Celeste Rojas ’22
Los Angeles, CA

Celeste is an indigenous Latina from Los Angeles. She plans to double major in film, because of her dream of becoming a screenwriter, and global studies, because of her fascination with culture. Her dream is to create films that impact the film industry to promote diversity both on-screen and behind-the-camera.

Diana Sanchez ’22
Jurupa Valley, CA
Environmental Economics and Policy

Diana Sanchez enjoys being involved in her community and helping those around her. She identifies as a Latinx woman who is also a member of the LGBTQ+ community. She believes that the biggest and most important changes in the world are the small changes.

Avey Songco ’22
Carson, CA
Industrial Engineering and Operations Research

Avey Songco is from Carson, California. Living in a working-class neighborhood, dealing with scoliosis, and building her own scooter when she was nine have steered her toward serving disadvantaged individuals through engineering. Her other passions include mindful meditation and track and field.

Alyssa Tong ’22
El Monte, CA
Molecular Environmental Biology, Society and Environment

Throughout her life in the city of El Monte, Alyssa Tong’s adversities have inspired her to work toward making the world a better place for both people and animals. She hopes to one day start a non-profit organization for animals that have been neglected, abused, or abandoned.

Son Tran ’20
Thua Thien Hue, Vietnam, CA
Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences

Son Tran moved to the U.S. in September 2015 from a small village in central Vietnam. Son has a strong passion for computer and physics. For that reason, he desires to do more research on quantum computing at Cal.

Angel Valdez Ordonez ’22
Santa Ynez, CA
Legal Studies

Angel Valdez Ordonez is from Santa Ynez, California. As the son of two Mexican immigrants, and as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, he has always been engaged in immigrant and queer activism. Because of his father’s death in 2017, Angel hopes to raise awareness for mental health and suicide.

Griselda Vega Martinez ’22
Santa Maria, CA
Legal Studies, Political Science

When Griselda Vega Martinez was nine months old, she was brought to the United States from Oaxaca, Mexico. Growing up, she was mainly raised by her father, which pushed her to learn how to navigate through life with a sharp-witted and buoyant mindset.

Kiara Veliz ’22
Merced, CA

Kiara Jacqueline Veliz is a first-generation American from Merced, California. As the first in her family to attend a four-year university, Kiara intends to major in molecular and cell biology with an emphasis in neurobiology as she aspires to become a neurosurgeon.

Magali Venegas Canseco ’22
Palm Springs, CA
Business Administration

Magali Venegas is the product of two Hispanic immigrants who came to the United States in hopes of living the American Dream. The struggles she faces as an undocumented Hispanic inspire her passion for equity in education. She’s excited to continue this journey at Cal as a political science major.

Anya Vertanessian ’22
Agoura Hills, CA

Anya Vertanessian is a Southern California native and first-generation American. She comes from a close-knit Armenian family that espoused the values of loyalty, compassion, and hard work, and taught her the importance of perseverance.

Marco Zaldana Aguilar ’22
Long Beach, CA

Marco is a first-generation queer Salvadoran student at UC Berkeley from Long Beach California. His struggles and work experience make him an exemplary individual. Marco hopes to embark on a journey of success at Berkeley.